The Utah Jazz are taking their road trip to New Orleans today for a Friday night matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans. Utah is 9-1 in their last ten games after narrowly escaping with a win against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. New Orleans comes into this game having won three in a row since the all star break. New addition CJ McCollum has averaged 23.6 points per game during that stretch to go with All Star Brandon Ingram’s 22.4 PPG this season. That one-two punch is going to be tough for the Jazz to handle in this game. The Pelican sit at 26-36 on the season and are trying to hang on to that final play-in spot and the Jazz enter this game pretty firmly entrenched in the four seed.
The Pelicans have been playing better basketball since they acquired CJ McCollum at the trade deadline but they are still without young star Zion Williamson and seem to be limited offensively because of it. Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum usually give the Jazz matchup problems though, so it will be interesting to see if the Jazz can somewhat contain both players. Another wild card for the Jazz to deal with will be Center Jonas Valanciunas. Sometimes Valanciunas looks like a hall of fame player against Rudy Gobert and other times not so much. The key for the Pelicans will be to get Valanciunas involved in the game early so that Rudy Gobert can’t dominate and lock down the paint.
For the Jazz, this is game three of a five game road trip that has gone well so far. Tonight’s game also begins a stretch of 3 games in 4 nights, so it is imperative that the Jazz play well in this game so that they expend as little energy as possible. Look for the Jazz get off to a fast start to build a lead and then focus on trying to close the game out properly. After last game Donovan Mitchell was pretty honest in his assessment, “It feels good to come out of here with a win, but we’ve gotta find a way not to give up an 18-point lead”. Speaking of Mitchell, he has been on a tear since returning from injury and will look to continue playing well on both sides of the ball. The key for the Jazz in this game will be to control the paint. That may seem like a given with Rudy Gobert out there, but the Pelicans have shown a willingness to try and attack the paint to open up their shooters.
It’s always fun when these two teams meet and tonight should be no different. If history repeats itself then look for a close game with some kind of controversial call at the end to decide it. This will be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this year and hopefully for Jazz fans it will result in a comfortable win that will not cause heart failure like the last game almost did.
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
TV: AT&T Sportsnet RM