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NBA Preview: Can the Jrue Krewe extend Mardi Gras at home against Utah?

The New Orleans Pelicans improbable win streak has turned the city on its head. Can they keep it going?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans never seem to follow the narrative.

The team following up its spectacular postseason sweep of the Blazers fumbled out of the gates so poorly in 2018-19 (somewhat due to injury luck) that Anthony Davis publicly demanded a trade prior to the deadline.

But then the team started winning.

Posting a record of 8-8, with substantial victories over the Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets, Lakers and Thunder, the New Orleans Pelicans have channeled Memphis’ grit-and-grind to pull off three consecutive victories, all after having trailed by double-digits.

The Pelicans continue doing it on the offensive end, but perhaps most surprisingly, they’ve significantly improved on the defensive end, up to 16th in Defensive Rating over the past 15 games.

But it gets better.

No seriously, sit down for this one.

Over the past 15 games, the 28th worst team in the NBA in Clutch minutes has been FIFTH IN THE NBA.

The New Orleans Pelicans are rolling at perhaps the most hilarious time, as many of the faithful would probably just prefer to increase the lottery odds and thereby keep the Lakers outside of the top-ten.

But hell, isn’t winning more fun?! Especially when the Lakers keep losing....

And in many ways developing and improving the assets inside the Airline practice facility is just as important as the Pelicans future draft selection this June. Kenrich Williams and Frank Jackson have exploded onto the scene in the past few weeks. While Kenrich has led all SFs in rebounding percentage in the past 16 games, Cheick Diallo is seventh in the entire NBA. Jackson struggled against the Jazz on Monday, but averaged 13.5 points over the previous three on 73% shooting from the field, including 60% from three! Jahlil Okafor has regressed back to the mean, but if he can find the consistency that turned national heads near the end of January, the Pelicans will have a solid young four to add to Jrue and whomever the Pelicans bring into the 2019-20 season.

Now, back to the Jazz.

It seems unlikely that the Pelicans will shoot 45% from three-point range again, and the chances of committing just eight turnovers is even more outlandish. In fact, the Pelicans have been the 26th team in the NBA in turnovers over the past 15 games (14.9), with Payton (2.9), Jrue (2.6), Julius (2.6) and AD (1.9 in 22 mpg) being the largest culprits.

The Pelicans will have to replicate that security to some extent to upend the Jazz again. They’ll also need that 62-48 points in the paint advantage.

The Pelicans won in many of the most important battles, but none more so than effort. The Pelicans lost the rebounding battle to the NBA’s second-best squad by only three boards, and came up big possession after possession in the final minutes.

And then, there was Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle combining for 60 points and overpowering Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell on BOTH ends. It was Randle’s huge block of Gobert that led to his bucket on the other end late that helped the Pelicans pull the upset, and a bevy of Holiday pump fakes that kept the Jazz defense on their toes.

Pelicans fans can expect similar outputs from Gobert (19 points, 19 boards) and Derrick Favors (16 points), but won’t be so lucky with Donovan Mitchell (8/24), Ricky Rubio (1/8) and Joe Ingles (2/7). But then again, will Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver combine for 40 on 15/27?

It will be up to the Pelicans bench to provide assistance to Jrue and Randle on both ends. Should the Pelicans extend their win streak to four games, it’ll take a collective effort against the Western Conference’s sixth-seeded team, who will likely be hungry for a bit of revenge.

And hey, if they punch the Pels in the mouth, and get one back, hello lottery odds!!

Let’s geaux, Pels!

Starting lineups:

Pelicans: Payton - Holiday - Kenrich - Randle - Davis

Utah: Rubio - Mitchell - Ingles - Favors - Gobert

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (30-36) at Utah Jazz (36-27)

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA

When: Wednesday, March 6th, 2019. 7:00 PM CST

How: FSNO, 99.5 FM WRNO