The New Orleans Pelicans have life!
After two months of sheer agony (and a 6-22 start), the return of Derrick Favors has resuscitated the Pelicans, injecting not only new hope but an entirely fresh style of play to this all but damned season.
And now New Orleans is just weeks (maybe days!) from gaining the use of the NBA’s first overall draft pick in Zion Williamson.
But Zion aside, the Pelicans have been playing really good ball on every level. They’ve won six of their previous eight contests which includes impressive victories over the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers.
They have the fourth-best overall rating during this eight game stretch, including the league’s fifth-best defensive unit as well as becoming the sixth-best team in rebounding.
Their pace has accelerated lately as well (seventh in last eight games), as everyone is becoming continually more comfortable within the parameters of this system with Favors back in the lineup.
Just three games out of the eighth spot in the West, the Pelicans now find themselves fast climbing back into the playoff picture with the league’s fifth-easiest remaining strength of schedule. But before they can get to the ‘gimmies,’ can they slow down the 23-12 Utah Jazz?
As is accustomed of a Jazz team headed by Rudy Gobert, the Jazz stymie opponents on the defensive end and in the halfcourt. They carry the league’s seventh-best defense, and limit opponents to just 105.3 points per game (fifth).
Brandon Ingram was electric in their previous matchup, going off for 33 points, five assists and four rebounds while shooting 4/7 from three and a perfect 5/5 from the line.
Donovan Mitchell and Bogdan Bogdanovic were the bug-a-boos for the Pels on the night as the two combined for 65 points on a super efficient 22/43 (9/20 from three).
The Jazz are the very best three-point shooting team in the NBA and sixth in effective field goal percentage. The Jazz convert the ninth most threes even though they take the 10th-least threes per game.
Slowing them will mean making shots difficult for them. Royce O’Neal and Bogdanovic are each dangerous from beyond the arc shooting 43 and 42 percent, respectively. Joe Ingles has continued his steady play shooting 40 percent on 5.2 threes per game.
If the Jazz have a weakness, it’s giving up easy transition points. They are 25th in turnovers and 17th in opponent fast break points.
The Pelicans didn’t have Derrick Favors in their last matchup, who will get his first glimpse of his former team. He’ll go head-to-head with Rudy Gobert who also missed the last matchup. (Tony Bradley earned the start against Jaxson Hayes.)
Watching these two defensive stalwarts battle in the paint will be a treat for both fanbases and could ultimately decide the fate of this contest. If the Pelicans can pull off the upset and run through Chicago and New York in the following games, they could find themselves closer to the final playoff spot.
And just in time for the return of Zion.
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (12-24) vs Utah Jazz (23-12)
Where: Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, LA
When: Monday, January 6th, 2019 7:00 PM CST