Twice in the last two games, the New Orleans Pelicans (30-37) turned double-digit deficits into victories by the time regulation came to a close. However, they could not make it thrice tonight as the Utah Jazz (37-27) exacted their revenge and came out on top with a 114-104 victory.
The game was gridlocked throughout most of the first half, with each team trading blows with run after run. A hot start from three-point land courtesy of Jae Crowder (11 points) and the immortal Kyle Korver (12 total points) anchored the early Jazz offensive, which was gifted many extra possessions by a sloppy Pelicans attack. New Orleans finished with 17 turnovers, nine more than they had in the victory at Utah just a couple of nights ago.
Anthony Davis scored seven points in the first quarter in what was otherwise a very poor 12 minutes of shooting for both teams (the 48 combined points was the lowest scoring quarter of the evening). Davis would score nine more in the second half, but his return to the floor in the second quarter coincided with the first big run of the evening for Utah, one that ultimately gave them the cushion the used for the remainder of the evening.
In the last few games, the Pelicans played really well to close out the 1st halves. Not tonight. At the 7:03 mark of the 2nd quarter, the game was tied at 39. Utah outscored the Pels 19-8 the rest of the way.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) March 7, 2019
On other news, Anthony Davis played the final 6:47 of the first half.
The gap between how easy it is to say this and how hard it is to actually do it may be among the largest you can find in the NBA, but the Pelicans failed to make life even remotely difficult for the pair of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Even if Davis was willing to put his body on the line as he has been in this matchup in years past, they are a tough duo to handle, and in this one they had their way.
Gobert and Favors combined for a gaudy 19-23 from the field for 47 points and collected 18 rebounds. Six total blocks, four of which came from the hands of Gobert, only tell a fraction of the story of how difficult they made life on offense for the Pelicans. Just the threat of the Stifle Tower’s presence was enough to force misses time and time again, even from the likes of Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday.
To Randle’s credit, he remained aggressive and, at least on offense, effective. To finish 9-18 from the field and score 23 points, to bring his two-game tally against the Jazz to 53 is truly impressive. What plagued him and point guard Elfrid Payton throughout the evening were the aforementioned turnovers. They combined for 11 (5 for Randle, 6 for Payton), many of which came as a result of strong closeouts from Utah that forced ill-advised passes out of drives that both players were unfortunately coerced into dishing out.
Utah ultimately won the fourth quarter 29-28, but not before the Pelicans managed to make things interesting. A Crowder dunk gave the Jazz a 102-85 lead with 8:08 remaining. Just under four minutes later, a Kenrich Williams three (which came immediately after a brutal airball) capped a 13-2 run that cut the cap to six. Despite being able to ride similar runs to victory in Denver and Utah, New Orleans fell victim to a three-minute cold spell after this make that evaporated any chance they had pulling this one out.
Holiday was not as sharp in this one as he had been of late, scoring just 16 points on 17 shots. Joe Ingles was tasked with tracking him for most of the night, and to his credit, he did not allow for many clean looks despite a shaky start:
Donovan Mitchell was able to break free of Holiday’s clutches as well, in part because Holiday was matched up on someone else. He scored 22 points on 18 shots, but his eight turnovers were key to the Pelicans comeback efforts. Despite their own troubles taking care of the ball, New Orleans actually won the turnover battle, forcing 20 and giving up 17. The points off of these mistakes were the difference though: Utah scored 28 to the Pelicans’ 17.
The night was a mixed bag for the youngest Pelicans. Cheick Diallo went scoreless in just 10 minutes of play after struggling to the tune of a -15 in 17 minutes on Monday. The sheer size of Gobert and Favors makes it hard for him to outwork smaller lineups as he does so well, though a case can be made that his strong effort and lack of results trumps the lack of effort or results of Davis, who finished tonight with a game-worst -20.
Jahlil Okafor only saw the floor for five minutes, but given that he has been nursing an ankle injury, the fact that he played at all is a step in the right direction.
Frank Jackson missed a couple of easy looks early on, but finished strong on 5-9 shooting and 3-4 from deep for 13 points. When things are going good for Jackson he looks like one of the smoothest players on the court. It is just a matter of making those instances more and more common moving forward.
Williams once again had the best night for the young guns. He knocked down just two of his seven three points attempts, which dragged down his otherwise pristine shooting numbers (5-11 overall), but between multiple backdoor cuts, solid defensive rotations and a tough six rebounds against some serious length, he continues to show that he not only knows what he needs to do to help the team win, but is absolutely capable of doing so.
The next game for the Pelicans will be a tough one against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, who come to town on Friday. A win should not be expected against a team of that caliber, but given how well this team has played of late, it is tough to bet against them.