The Jazz are a tricky bunch to figure out. While it’s been easy to say it’s too early up to this point, we’re getting to the time in the season where teams start to establish their identities. With a win against the Clippers in LA on Wednesday the Jazz got themselves back to .500. That win was a big one for the Jazz, who hadn’t beaten the Clippers since January of 2012. The big win in LA came just two days after the Jazz got run off the court by the Oklahoma City Thunder at home. The win against the Clippers was a better response than most were expecting. With the Jazz hosting the Warriors on Monday, Saturday night’s matchup against the Pelicans could easily be a trap. Sandwiched between two huge games, the Pelicans looked to capitalize on their fortuitous placement on the Jazz’ schedule. For the Jazz, Saturday night was the type of game that they needed to win if they hoped to establish themselves as playoff contenders in the eyes of the NBA. They made a strong statement Saturday night by holding off a talented team in a game of runs.
New Orleans has struggled this year. They got off to a very slow start, losing 10 of their first 11 games. Since then, however, they have won three of four, their only loss coming on Friday night against a Clippers team that the Jazz beat earlier in the week. In the loss at LA, New Orleans star Anthony Davis came out with an apparent knee injury. Davis decided to play Saturday despite the injury. Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, who was also listed questionable, was in the lineup for New Orleans as well. It wasn’t such good news for the Jazz, as Derrick Favors was not with the team for personal reasons. Without Favors the Jazz would need to find a way to score in the post, and stop Anthony Davis.
The Jazz got off to a good start against New Orleans. They were getting the shots they wanted and forcing the Pelicans into difficult situations on offense. They built an early lead and maintained it throughout the quarter. Despite getting good looks, however, the Jazz only shot 32% in the first quarter. Hayward missed a wide-open look from the corner early. Rodney Hood looked good, scoring nine first quarter points. That was nothing compared to the 14 that Anthony Davis scored. What made Davis’ first quarter even more impressive is that he scored all but two of the first quarter points for his team. The first quarter ended at 16-23 in favor of the Jazz.
The Jazz started off strong in the second quarter. They built their lead and looked to be putting the Pelicans away. Joe Ingles, who was hot in the first, hit an early three to put the Jazz at 64% from deep. But New Orleans wasn’t finished. The Pelicans finished the half on a flurry. Anthony Davis continued to dominate. He finished the half with 21 points and 8 rebounds. What was once a 20-point lead for the Jazz got dwindled down to a 9-point lead at halftime. The Jazz missed four threes in a row to close the half. Both teams shot poorly, with New Orleans at 35% and the Jazz at 34% from the field. Gordon Hayward led the Jazz at the half with 12 points. Trevor Booker was strong on the glass filling in for Derrick Favors with 10 first half boards.
The Jazz looked good to start the second half. They extended their lead in the first few minutes of the third quarter and looked to be pulling away. But New Orleans continued their same pattern of mid-quarter dominance. Anthony Davis hit a couple of big shots. The Jazz had some turnovers that led to easy baskets for the Pelicans. After a rough start, however, Trey Burke hit a timely jumper followed by a big three that quelled the New Orleans run. But the star of the third quarter was Alec Burks, who went off. He connected on jumpers and couldn’t miss attacking the basket. The Jazz finished the quarter well and took a 60-76 lead into the final frame.
Once again the Jazz started a quarter hot and had the Pelicans regain their composure. The Jazz started on a 7-2 run which included a big three from Trey Burke. Burke’s sharp shooting faded and he began turning the ball over. Slowly but surely New Orleans clawed back. But their comeback attempt was too little too late as the Jazz finished well. Utah’s well-rounded lineup came up strong and several players contributed down the stretch. Trevor Booker’s energy was huge. He finished with four offensive rebounds and 15 overall. Alec Burks led the team in scoring with 21 points off the bench. Anthony Davis had 36 points and 11 rebounds.
The final score was 101-87 for the Jazz. The Golden State Warriors will be in town on Monday night to give the Jazz their biggest test of the season.
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