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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans can expect another slugfest against scorching-hot Utah Jazz

The Jazz have won 15 of their past 16 games. The Pelicans nearly forced overtime 12 days ago. Can New Orleans come close to winning this matchup again?

Golden State Warriors v Utah Jazz Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

No, this isn’t the Zion Williamson game preview you’ve been waiting for.

After having failed to Jedi-mind trick David Griffin into playing the number one overall pick tonight, the media finally got a bona-fide date as to Zion’s return — January 22nd against the San Antonio Spurs.

In the interim, however, they’ll have to relive the painful late game loss they suffered at the hands of the Utah Jazz on January 6th.

The Pelicans had the opportunity to send the game from their last matchup to overtime with just under five seconds remaining in regulation. Brandon Ingram rebounded the ball and raced up the court before Alvin Gentry could signal a timeout prompting this wild ending.

Here we go, again?

Tonight, the Pelicans host these Jazz and they should get a little bit of help in the process. Derrick Favors and Brandon Ingram are looking poised to return to the starting lineup, with JJ Redick questionable to join them. Ingram led the squad with 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the January 6th loss to the Jazz.

Having these three return to action will be critical to the Pelicans’ quest to continue climbing in the standings (they’re 13th, now!). Redick scored 23 points in their last matchup on just 12 shots while Favors added a steady nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

The Problem

The Jazz are scorching hot. They’ve won four consecutive games since facing the Pelicans and 15 of their last 16.

With Mike Conley Jr. out of the lineup, everything has clicked perfectly. The Jazz’s starting lineup of Mitchell - O’Neale - Ingles - Bogdanovic - Gobert has been a soul crushing positive 21.3 per 100 possessions in 326 minutes.

Mitchell has found his rhythm during that time scoring 23.3 points, 5.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds on a 55.8 true shooting percentage. Ingles has been automatic, shooting over 54 percent from three in his past 15 games with nearly seven attempts.

Everything is working for the Jazz right now and the Pelicans will have to push the tempo and score at a premium once again if they have any hope in stopping them.

The Jazz’s formula is as fundamental as it is consistent and we all know it by now: They slow the pace and beat you in half court execution.

The Pelicans turned the ball over just six times in their last matchup (season-low) and shot over 38 percent from three while scoring 52 points in the paint.

But everything the Pelicans did, the Jazz did slightly better. The Jazz turned the ball over eight times while shooting nearly 50 percent from three on 33 attempts with 54 points in the paint.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the team in scoring (35 points), while simultaneously not adding a single other statistic (lol).

The Jordan Clarkson one has been a major one as the bench scorer adds 15 points per game to his new squad. Without the benefit of Jrue Holiday or Kenrich Williams, the Pelicans will have to rely on youth to cancel out his impact.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Frank Jackson will again be called upon to give crucial minutes against the Western Conference’s second-leading team in wins (28).

NAW has shown plenty in his limited time to warrant leading the offense against Emmanuel Mudiay and Co., but Frank Jackson will likely be tasked with slowing Clarkson. Jackson has shown plenty as a capable defender, including his stout defense against Derrick Rose on a night when the former MVP seemed unstoppable late.

It should be another fun slugfest.

For more, please check out our latest podcast announcing the return of Zion and so much more, featuring David Grubb, Oleh Kosel, David Fisher and Kevin Barrios.

Let’s geaux, Pels!