It’s a big sigh of relief that these two teams will not meet again this regular season.
The Pelicans fell 132-129 in overtime to the Jazz, getting swept 3-0 in the season series — with two of the losses coming in extra time.
Tonight’s defeat was particularly painful because New Orleans had seemingly grabbed the momentum right before the end of regulation.
With 12.6 seconds left and trailing by three, the Pelicans needed a 3-pointer to tie things up at 118 apiece. They managed the feat after Larry Nance Jr. tipped out CJ McCollum’s miss and the ball found Trey Murphy’s hands. The second-year man drilled a jumper from the right corner with two seconds remaining on the clock.
Nance wasn’t finished with trying to nail the part of the hero in our story.
Lauri Markkanen, who got away with an obvious two-handed push on Nance to create space, caught the inbound pass moving towards the rim. It appeared Nance had blocked the short field goal attempt anyways, but the referees initially ruled a goaltend.
Following a review at the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, the mistake was corrected, though, tomorrow’s two-minute report is also likely to include that push which should have resulted in an offensive foul.
Highlighting a missed call and wondering about why no time was put on the clock after Nance’s block isn’t ideal — referees are known for not wanting to determine an outcome with their whistle, but that’s what we’re left with as the Pelicans failed to take advantage in the overtime period.
They quickly fell behind and two consecutive turnovers really stood out because Utah absolutely feasted on New Orleans’ miscues all night long.
While the Pelicans committed only two more turnovers for the game, the Jazz walloped them 33-15 in points off turnovers.
“A lot of our turnovers were live ball turnovers,” Willie Green said. “Many times you turn the ball over, you just give it to them. They’re getting dunks and threes. For a team like this, we have to value possessions. I just think we didn’t do a good enough job of valuing the basketball down the stretch.”
The Jazz tried to make the finish interesting by missing three of four free throws, giving the Pelicans a chance for another tie on their last offensive possession, but McCollum’s 3-point attempt came up significantly short.
The Pelicans needed to play a cleaner game because the Jazz not only made six more 3-pointers, they got to the free throw line more often.
Jordan Clarkson lit up the scoreboard for 25 points in the first half, including 5 of 6 from deep. He finished with 39 points and seven triples. The second half was dominated by Markkanen, where he scored 19 of his 31 points and hit 3 of his 5 threes.
Zion Williamson (31 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two blocks — and one big 3-pointer to knot the score in the fourth quarter) and CJ McCollum (28 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks) did their best to offset Utah’s two hot shooters. However, Utah had a secret weapon that stymied Williamson just enough: Walker Kessler.
There’s no doubt we’ve been routinely spoiled by his impressive efficiency, but Williamson made 12 of 24 field goals. That’s an off night for him and a big reason for that was Kessler’s length. Zion had to alter a handful of shots or he simply missed because the 7’2 center’s presence was undeniable.
It was also readily observable how often Utah hunted Williamson late. Clarkson particularly sought those matchups. New Orleans, conversely, didn’t target anyone on their offensive possessions down the stretch.
Herb Jones was solid (12 points, four rebounds, four assists, two beautiful Euro’s), but he fouled out in 21 minutes.
For the most part, the Second Line shined.
Outside of Nance trying to create a shot for himself twice, he was flawless against taller competition, finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Naji Marshall (13 points, four steals) was outstanding early, bringing a lot of fire that was sorely needed with Jose Alvarado sitting out due to a rib contusion. His secondary drives, which resulted in points almost every time, were key. So were his hands, nabbing some big-time thefts.
Murphy (12 points), who is normally a member of the bench squad, started slowly and all three of his 3-pointers came in the second half. That’s important to note since the Pelicans enjoyed a double-digit lead for much of the third quarter, yet they wound up coughing it away.
If one was to point fingers, it hurt in hindsight to have McCollum and Williamson taking a rest together when the Jazz were on a noticeable run.
At the 4:11 mark of the third quarter, the Pelicans had a decently comfortable 89-80 lead, but the offense collapsed as the two stars watched from the bench. A 24-8 run soon gave Utah a 91-90 lead.
The Pelicans undoubtedly played better than they did on Tuesday. They made a lot more field goals and the effort was stronger. McCollum was that necessary second scorer behind Williamson. However, the Jazz making the Pelicans pay dearly for every mistake, with many of them winding up as 3-pointers, was the difference.
Utah doesn’t appear to be a good matchup for New Orleans, at least without Brandon Ingram.
So now another season finale awaits on this road trip in Phoenix. Expect for the Suns to exact a lot of revenge for their back-to-back losses in New Orleans.