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NBA Preview: Pelicans seek second win of season over Jazz

Getting Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas back in the lineup would immensely help matters

New Orleans Pelicans v Utah Jazz Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans haven’t beaten the Utah Jazz multiple times in a season since the 2015-16 campaign. They have two opportunities remaining, with the first coming this Monday evening. (They also host the Jazz on March 4.)

In defeating the Jazz by a final score of 98-97 on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Pelicans earned their first clutch time victory of the season. Devonte’ Graham was the hero, nailing a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in regulation.

The victory was short-lived, however, as New Orleans fell 127-105 to Utah the very next night. Donovan Mitchell led a very determined Jazz squad with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in only 27 minutes of action.

Getting win No. 2 won’t be easy again.

The Jazz have the exact same winning percentage as last year’s group that finished second in the Western Conference. They enter tonight with six victories in their last seven games, with the only loss coming on New Year’s Day against the Golden State Warriors. And they’ve been remarkably fortunate: Utah is the only team in the league that hasn’t had any of its players in the league’s health and safety protocols during the 2021-22 campaign.

Eric Paschall (personal) and Hassan Whiteside (concussion) are questionable to play for other reasons.

On the other hand, the Pelicans could be without two key contributors in Brandon Ingram (left Achilles soreness) and Jonas Valanciunas (health and safety protocols). They’re already slated to be without Tomas Satoransky (health and safety protocols), Kira Lewis Jr. (torn ACL), Didi Louzada (suspension) and Zion Williamson (right foot surgery).

It is interesting that Valanciunas is listed as questionable as B.I., though, because the usual starting center entered COVID protocols on New Year’s Eve. Could a second negative test be all that stands in his way of a return to action? Fingers crossed for good news.

The Pelicans have knocked off the Jazz just five times in their last 19 matchups. Being able to field a starting lineup (Graham-Ingram-Hart-Jones-Valanciunas) that’s 7-3 on the season would go a long way to earning another victory over the inappropriately named basketball team from Utah.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (13-23) vs Utah Jazz (26-10)

When: January 3, 2022, 7:00 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

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 @OlehKosel.