Tonight, the Utah Jazz will take on the Pelicans in New Orleans. It’s a game that the Jazz (-7) should win easily under normal circumstances. Yet, considering the Jazz are playing their third game in four nights, all in different cities on the road. Thus, it could be a dangerous game for a road weary team. According to Coach Quin Snyder however, the Jazz are “not allowed to be tired.”
The Jazz, 2-1 on their current road trip, looked a little sluggish to start their last game in Orlando against the Magic. Nonetheless, the Jazz were able to avoid a two game losing streak with a strong third quarter and, as usual, a balanced effort with seven players scoring in double figures. Overall, the Jazz have a four game cushion over the Los Angeles Lakers with the best record in the league and franchise history, 27-7. The Jazz have won 23 of their last 26 games overall.
The Pelicans, on the other hand, are sitting in eleventh place in the Western Conference standings with a record of 14-19, losers in seven of their last ten games. New Orleans has struggled this season, defensively, giving up nearly ten more points per game than the Jazz.
When: Monday, March 1st, 2021 • 6:00 PM MT
Where: Smoothie King Center - New Olreans, LA
TV: NBA TV - AT&T SportsNet - Rocky Mountain
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
Looking at the Pelicans roster, I thought that the Jazz would be far superior when it comes to three point percentages. Interestingly enough, the Pelicans aren’t as bad as I thought they would be, shooting the three at a 36 percent clip, compared to 39 percent from the Jazz.
Donovan Mitchell, an upcoming participant in the three point contest during this season’s abbreviated All-Star Weekend, is a much better three point shooter than Lonzo Ball, right? Ball is actually shooting a higher percentage from behind the arc (39 percent) than Mitchell (38 percent).
Well, Mitchell must be shooting threes at a much higher volume then, right? Actually, Mitchell takes 8.6 threes a game, compared to 7.8 for Ball. This, I think, is where statistics can be misleading. Lonzo Ball doesn’t hold anywhere near the gravity that Donovan Mitchell does when it comes to shooting the ball from anywhere on the court.
The Jazz take ten more threes a game (42) than the Pelicans (32) and make five more. While the Pelicans, especially considering their roster, are keeping their three point shooting percentage respectable, they have no match for Utah’s ability to draw gravity, space the floor, and shoot threes effectively at a much higher volume.
Another statistic that stands out in contrast between the two teams is defense. While both teams are scoring at a similar rate this season, the Jazz are holding opponents to nearly ten points per game less (106.5) than the Pelicans (115.7).
I expect first time All Star Zion Williamson, who is averaging 25.5 points per game, will get his offensive stats and a few highlight plays tonight, but his defense, or lack thereof, will allow the Jazz to feast offensively. Zion is, incredibly 339th in the league in defensive win shares (.042).
The Pelicans, as a team, have zero players in the top 50 for defensive win shares. The Jazz have five in the top 50: Mike Conley (3), Rudy Gobert (5), Bojan Bogdonovic (45), Royce O’Neale (49, and Dovonan Mitchell (50).
I anticipate another balanced effort tonight from the Jazz in which they make another push at breaking the franchise three point record for a game (28).
One last thing to watch for is how it affects the Jazz having Mike Conley in and out of the lineup. The Jazz have only lost three times since January 8th. Two of those three losses have come when one of the Jazz’ starting guards returned to the lineup after sitting out multiple games with injury. The Jazz lost to the Denver Nuggets in Mitchell’s first game back from concussion protocol, and, the Jazz lost to the Clippers in Conley’s first game back from resting his hamstring.
Conley sat out again, in the Jazz win over Orlando on Saturday, to precautionarily rest his hamstring on the second night of a back to back. Will his return throw the Jazz off or will the Jazz operate on all cylinders? With the game being broadcast nationally on NBA TV, it could be an opportunity for Conley to demonstrate why he should have been picked as an all-star over Zion.