Embarrassing. The Utah Jazz should be embarrassed after losing at home (115-112) to a New Orleans Pelicans team that has been the Basketball Dictionary’s definition of dysfunctional. It’s one thing to have an off night from the offensive end, but for a team that prides itself on defense, it’s a complete other to see it give up on the defensive end to a team that isn’t even playing Anthony Davis more than 20 minutes a night.
It shouldn’t have been this way. The Utah Jazz pounced on the Pelicans right from the get go as they built a 9 point lead that they took into halftime. The Joe Ingles to Derrick Favors connection was poppin. Rudy Gobert was feasting inside. Donovan Mitchell was skying high for alley oops as was Rudy. Kyle Korver had four threes in the first half, Jae Crowder was locked in from deep as well.
Then halftime happened. Anthony Davis wasn’t getting as many minutes and a lethargic Pelicans team was given a window to believe in themselves as the Jazz grew lazy in the third quarter with lackadaisical defense. Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday started getting to the rim and barely being challenged. The Jazz looked as though they thought the Pelicans would give up, but why should they? The Pellies had just taken down Denver. They knew they could stand up to anybody with or without Anthony Davis.
The Utah Jazz finally punched back in the 4th quarter building a 17 point lead. That lead fell to just 10 points when a fateful sub occured with 7 and a half minutes in the game. Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert checked in for Kyle Korver and Derrick Favors. Now is this game’s loss fully on their shoulders? Of course not.
But Quin Snyder had to recognize that Rubio just didn’t have it for this game. He also had to recognize that Derrick Favors was rolling with beast mode again. Rudy Gobert was having a great game, too, but he could have waited until the Favors show lasted a little longer before he ran out of gas.
With Rubio in, the Pelicans swarmed the Donovan Mitchell-Rudy Gobert pick and roll. They had one less shooter on the floor to worry about with Korver out and stayed pinned on Crowder and Korver. Spacing died. Donovan Mitchell began to get tunnel vision. Rudy Gobert struggled to finish. The Jazz who had a 10 point lead were rushing through possessions. Quick shots, turnovers early in the shot clock by Donovan and Joe Ingles.
That left them down 6 with only two minutes to go. Utah had to play perfect to win it. They put on a brilliant fireworks show. Rudy Gobert had an amazing block which went to Donovan Mitchell who converted the layup and the And1. Utah had another great defensive possession and Donovan Mitchell converted. They had another great defensive sequence and the Jazz took the lead. The Utah Jazz then had ANOTHER brilliant defensive possession, BUT they didn’t get the rebound. Elfrid Payton scored on the offensive rebound and putback.
They had to play perfect. They didn’t. They lost.
Takeaways & Notes
- Honestly, if the Jazz won, they probably would have still been lit up by Quin Snyder as if it was loss. To be honest, Quin Snyder should be ready to take some blame as well. Utah has a difficult problem right now. Ricky Rubio fits better with a bench unit that features more shooting. Donovan Mitchell looks more and more like a PG and fits better next to Royce O’Neale (a catch and shoot floor spacer at the 2). Derrick Favors plays better when Rudy Gobert is off the floor and vice versa. These players get better value and reach higher heights without each other, but because of egos (or possibly contract language) they start or play a lot together—not so much Favors and Gobert but Rubio and Mitchell.
- Quin has some tough decisions to make. Rubio is an up and down roller coaster. Donovan Mitchell works amazing as a one even if he doesn’t like the increased workload. Derrick Favors is absolutely beasting right now and it’s hard to have him off the floor, but if you keep Favors on the floor you prevent the defending Defensive Player of the Year from entering the floor. Might be time to ruffle some feathers in the locker room now so the team has a month to get settled before the playoffs.
- Julius Randle looks like an absolute beast, doesn’t he? My goodness, he’s a bowling ball in the paint. He had 30 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block against the Utah Jazz’s vaunted defense. That dude is going to get PAID if he so chooses to opt out of his contract.
- Jrue Holiday ... I want him. If he becomes available anytime during the offseason, Utah needs to throw the house (save Donovan and Rudy) at the Pelicans. He’d be the perfect compliment to this Jazz team and identity. He had 30 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Part of the reason Utah’s guards has such a hard time against this Pelicans squad is the length of the perimeter from Jrue Holiday and Elfrid Payton.
- It feels crazy to say this, but I think this New Orleans Pelicans team would be in the playoff hunt if they didn’t have Anthony Davis all season. It’s hot take, I know. But when Anthony Davis left the floor, this Pelicans’ team identity flipped. They played with passion and were gritty. While I hope Jrue is available via trade, I have a feeling he won’t be. This Pelicans squad if they make the right Anthony Davis trade could be right back in the playoff mix with this squad.
- After a scorching post All-Star break, Donovan Mitchell careened back to earth. 8 of 24 from the field. 1 of 9 from three. 9 assists were great, but six turnovers? Yikes. Jrue Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in this league and he made a statement tonight with Donovan Mitchell being his receipt.
- Derrick Favors is flat out beasting. He had 16 points in 23 minutes with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Rudy Gobert was great, too, with 19 points, 19 rebounds, and 2 blocks. I’m not going to rehash the dilemma of balancing their minutes, but man the Jazz are WAY TOO top heavy with talent at the center position right now.
- The bench continues to do its job. I said on Twitter after the Milwaukee game that Utah’s bench has been fan-damn-tastic. That continued with Kyle Korver scoring 20, Jae Crowder scoring 20, and Royce O’Neale playing his tail off defensively. Quin might have needed to trust the bench a little bit more to carry this win.
- Utah has a lot of thinking to do before their rematch with the Pelicans which is on Wednesday in New Orleans. They’ll get a chance at revenge, but this loss hurts. They could have pulled within 1 game of the Houston Rockets and 2 games of the Thunder and Blazers. Instead they fall to 2 games back of the Rockets, and 3 games back of the Thunder and Blazers. They have the inside road to home court advantage if they can just resist the urge to play down to their competition.