And FINALLY, last night the Utah Jazz played their fifth game in seven nights, and their third on the road, against the New Orleans Pelicans. This is really a homecoming game for the Jazz franchise, and despite the fatigue, both teams were hampered by injuries. New Orleans played without Jrue Holiday, their starting point guard; without Ryan Anderson, their sharp shooting stretch four; and without Anthony Davis, their All-World talent. Utah was once again without starting shooting guard Alec Burks, back-up shooting guard Rodney Hood, and back-up back-up shooting guard Joe Ingles. What's tougher, playing without two starters and a great bench player -- or playing with an empty deck at where the other team was strongest. While New Orleans still had Omer Asik inside, the Jazz really had no one to combat the onslaught Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans would bring.
So on one hand we have a tired, and severely hampered road team, and on the other a broken home team. How would this game play out? If you guessed Gordon / Gordon Shootout, give yourself a pat on the back. Myself, I expected Tyreke Evans to go nuts, but hey, the bottom line is that the Jazz got the win, 100-96.
Out of the last five games I would say that this one was one of the more satisfying ones. Not so much because the play was stellar, or that it was a 14 point come from behind victory, but because of how the game ended. In a tired situation where everyone just wants to go home, the Jazz found a way to dig in and fly back to Utah in a celebratory mood.
The first quarter wasn't that fun at all. New Orleans couldn't miss from outside, and the Jazz looked like they were mostly all hung over. A 10-4 run at the beginning by the Jazz was negated by a 10-0 run by the Tyreke Gordons. Both teams had iffy benches with all the injuries, but in the first quarter the Jazz bench out performed. Trey Burke missed all of his shots, but Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker did not, so that evened out. Jeff Withey was working hard for the Pels, but it's obvious that he wasn't going to be a huge factor tonight. Defense was something the Jazz would need to play to win this game, and Dante Exum had an EXCELLENT stop on Tyreke Evans in one up / four down mode with the Pels running the clock down to get the last shot to end the 1st quarter.
The Jazz were treading water, holding a slim lead for most of the game at this point, and went on a 5-0 run to start the second, extending the lead to 32-25. Then everyone got dog-gone tired at once. Quin Snyder tried the bench, tried the starters, tried everyone -- but nothing could stop the deluge from the Pelicans. In the mid-second quarter they would go on a 22-2 run. It was pretty much Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, but they kept finding open guys to shoot and score in Quincy Pondexter, Toney Douglas, and Luke Babbitt. The Babbitt thing is crazy to me because the Jazz did not make a good enough use of this mismatch when he was out there.
In fact, having watched the last three games all in a row today it's clear that while the playbook remains the same, the team played differently in all of these games. At the start in Phoenix it was point forward Hayward and lots of cutting and movement. Against Sacramento it was transition play and defense. In this game it was, well, people being tired and taking a lot more jumpers than they should when there was such an obvious inside advantage to be exploited.
Yes, the team got Rudy Gobert open near the rim a few times, but there should have been much more. I can't really read my notes for the second quarter, but it appears as though there was a disconnect on offense. Down ten at the half things looked worse when the game started again. The Pelicans basically had a minute long possession where there were four offensive rebounds, which terminated with Enes Kanter fouling Omer Asik on an And-1 attempt, he would miss the free throw though.
New Orleans would extend the lead to 14 points, and this is really where you learn about your team. Down 14, in the 3rd. On the read. This is the 3rd game in four nights, and the fifth game in seven. You're hurt, and getting beat where there are injuries. It would have been something we've seen before to see this team pack it in. Thankfully, this team isn't 'led' by Josh Howard types, or Randy Foye types . . . you know, mercenaries looking for their next contract.
This Jazz team wants to play the game to win the game. And Gordon Hayward wasn't having NONE of this. He tagged in Steve Novak, and the two of them went on a three point shooting tear to end the third, and place the team well in the fourth. Novak hit 3 threes in 6 minutes. Hayward, who would play the entire 3rd, made two as well. The Jazz ended the third on a 21-3 run, and started the fourth on a 7-2 run.
After Hayward sat down the Pelicans then counter attacked and went on a 18-8 run and re-took the lead at the 43:40 minute mark. A little more than four minutes left in the game, and man, this got exciting. Utah retook the lead two minutes later, but both teams had a number of hay-makers to throw still.
It got down to three point tries and intentional fouls -- and New Orleans didn't give up on their home court. Thankfully Gordon Hayward's free throw shooting was the equal of, if not better than the three point shooting of Eric Gordon. If you can watch the final moments of this game again, I would suggest that you do.
But the Jazz won 100-96, and G-Time is prime time at this point.
- He finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2, steals, 1 block, 3 made threes, and went 9/11 from the FT line. (And despite all of that was just +5 in +/- in this crazy game).
Derrick Favors finished with 18 and 7, with 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
- Enes Kanter added 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 1 steal.
- Dante Exum chipped in with 8 points (2/7 from downtown), 5 assists, and 1 rebound.
- Elijah Millsap, in his second NBA start, had 2 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, and kinda made up for shooting 1/8 from the field.
- Off the bench Steve Novak dialed up 12 points from long distance (4/5), and added 2 assists and 1 rebound
- Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker combined for 14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists, and 1 steal
- Trey Burke finished with zero points, on 0/10 shooting. Eep.
No shooting guards. No rest. And no reason to fight on after being down by 14 with time running out in the third. These guys fought back and won despite giving up 31 to Eric Gordon, and 18 / 10 / 7 to Tyreke Evans. A win is a win. And this was a big one.