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Pelicans fail to overcome fatal flaws in Utah, suffer dismal loss to Jazz, 118-102

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The Jazz made a living from behind the arc — the Pels did not

New Orleans Pelicans v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Pelicans walked into Vivint Arena in Utah Tuesday night looking for back-to-back wins for the first time in over two weeks. The Jazz had other plans though, and they stopped New Orleans in their tracks, handing them their sixth loss in the last seven games by a final score of 118-102.

If there were more fun elements to highlight in Tuesday’s loss from mediocre ones, it would be awesome to mention them. Unfortunately, a lot of the team’s most fatal flaws showed up once again. The Pelicans couldn’t limit the Jazz to one shot, defend well or drive them off the three-point line.

New Orleans allowed the Jazz to shoot 51 percent from the field, but the 45% from three-point range (on 47 attempts!) eliminated any chance for a Pelicans’ comeback.

Making a lot of threes has been a good recipe for Utah this season, and it represents a departure from years past. The Jazz have fully accepted the modern NBA style of play and it’s led them to a 10-4 record, good currently for second in the West.

On the other hand, the Pelicans with 26 attempts from deep, marking the eighth time they’ve failed to shoot 30 three-pointers or more in a game.

So what went right? Well, Zion Williamson finished with a game-high 32 points on 19 shots, compiling his most efficient back-to-back scoring outputs of the season. Actually, in franchise history.

Utah has torched the Pelicans consistently over the years with ball movement and the corner 3-ball. As mentioned earlier, they ended with 21 on Tuesday night — 15 more makes than the Pelicans. That’s 45 more points on the scoreboard!

Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game that the amount of threes opponents are taking and making will be addressed.

Brandon Ingram was the only other Pelicans’ player to hit double figures in scoring, finishing the night with 17, but as we’ll discuss in a minute, he’s had much better performances against the Jazz recently.

For the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell ended the night with 28 points, Rudy Gobert finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds, and the Jazz bench repeatedly burned the Pels, combining for 54 points led by Jordan Clarkson’s 18.

With limited personnel options, the Pelicans will have to go back to the drawing board in regards to their approach on both sides of the floor if they want to become a good basketball team this season.

All of the parts on the floor do not seem to fit, but the front office will probably take more time than some prefer to sift through the roster, so expect more bumps in the road like tonight. The Pelicans are an imperfect team right now and there’s no escaping that fact.

Key Observations

Brandon Ingram’s down night:

Ingram had multiple career nights against the Jazz during the 2019-20 campaign, so it was only right to wonder what he would do in their first matchup this season.

B.I. didn’t have a bad game per se (17 points, three rebounds, four assists, two blocks), but the performance felt inconsequential. He simply wasn’t up to the all-star standards he’s set externally, and the best-in-the-world mindset he carries internally.

Tuesday didn’t add to the list of last year’s all-out assault on Utah, but we know Brandon will have this game in mind when the two team’s battle again in less than 48 hours.

Lonzo Ball’s return:

After missing the last three games nursing knee issues, Lonzo Ball made his return to the lineup. Ball, unfortunately, picked up where he left off — in a shooting slump — as he finished 3-10 from the field and a ghastly 0-6 from the three-point line.

It will be interesting to see if any different lineup combinations follow from tonight’s debacle to help Ball get back to producing offensively. The proficiency on his jumper normally leads to shaping the amount of aggressiveness he puts forth, and right now this New Orleans team urgently needs good contributions.

For everything that is made of his future and past, he needs to be better in the present.

Next up:

The Pelicans will look for revenge against the Utah Jazz this Thursday in their second meeting in Salt Lake City. Can the Pelicans make enough adjustments for a different outcome? There’s only one way to find out, stay tuned and geaux Pelicans!

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @ImpatientBull.