New Orleans trailed by as many as 38 points in the second half.
The Pelicans finished the preseason schedule with a 1-3 record. Zion Williamson sat out all four games, while Brandon Ingram and Jaxson Hayes missed each of the final three contests.
Still, even without two key starters, the Pelicans did not play with much cohesion or tenacity on either end of the floor.
New Orleans took a 2-0 lead on a Jonas Valanciunas basket on its first possession, but after Bojan Bogdonocic knocked down a three-pointer in response, the Pels would fail to tie, let alone recapture the lead, again.
Utah was aided and abetted by 10 Pelicans turnovers in the opening quarter, with New Orleans giving the ball away 21 times overall.
In its three preseason losses, New Orleans averaged 20.3 turnovers per game. In their lone win, over the Orlando Magic, the Pelicans turned it over just 10 times.
Somehow, the Jazz only led by six points after the first period.
Between the start of the second and the end of the third quarters, however, Utah broke the game wide open. The Jazz outscored New Orleans 67-43 over that 24 minute span.
New Orleans’ interior defense was nonexistent, as the Jazz dominated the paint with 54 points. Rudy Gobert set the tempo with 19 points, 19 rebounds, and two blocked shots as Utah looked to be in midseason form.
Donovan Mitchell added 18 points, five assists, four steals, and three blocks. Last season’s Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson, came off the bench to score 17 points in 18 minutes.
The Jazz, always one of the NBA’s best outside shooting teams, also converted 16 of their 42 three point attempts.
“They’ve been together for awhile,” Willie Green said in postgame. “That’s a championship-caliber team, a playoff-experienced team. They know how to execute physically and it was a tough matchup for us tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Pelicans seemed lost without the two biggest cogs in their offensive machine. Valanciunas was solid, giving New Orleans 12 points and six rebounds; but was no match for Gobert in the paint.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker struggled to put the ball in the basket for the second straight game, finishing 4-of-13 from the floor on his way to 11 points.
After scoring 41 points on 12-of-25 shooting in his first two games, NAW made only seven of his last 28 field goal attempts, including 3-of-14 from three point range.
The veterans not named Valanciunas provided little. Garrett Temple scored four points and closed the preseason shooting 30.4 percent. Tomas Satoransky averaged 3.5 points, 1.25 assists, and 0.5 steals per game.
Josh Hart had more technical fouls than baskets on Monday, exiting the game after loudly, and profanely criticizing the officiating.
Though, Graham did have his best shooting night of the preseason. His four made three-pointers in five attempts doubled his total after three games.
Devonte Graham pic.twitter.com/cw5EeSkwhd— Zion Williamson FanPage (@zionheadlines) October 12, 2021
“He’s definitely getting more comfortable,” Green said. “He’s getting in game shape so it was good to see him come out and make some baskets.”
Naji Marshall, Trey Murphy III, and Herbert Jones, were among the few players that competed throughout on both ends of the floor.
With nine days remaining prior to the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 20, there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the Pelicans.
From injury statuses, to starting rotations, everything seems up in the air. That’s an uncomfortable position to be in before one of the most critical seasons in the history of the franchise.
The world will be watching the New Orleans Pelicans, for better and for worse. Right now, we’re all still completely clueless as to what we’re about to see.
What we do know is that the effort we saw over those four games cannot be indicative of what the level the team will give each night. It can’t be. Otherwise…
Let’s not talk about otherwise for now.