The Utah Jazz (33-19) will take on the New Orleans Pelicans (20-32) at the Smoothie King Center tonight at 6:00 PM MT. The Jazz are coming off one of their best performances of the season on Monday night when they beat the Atlanta Hawks 120-95. Unfortunately for the Hawks, it was a 25 point lead that would not be blown in a game involving an Atlanta team this week.
The Jazz are looking to build on a 3-game winning streak tonight against Pelicans. The Pelicans’ last game was also played on Monday night when they defeated the Phoenix Suns at home by a score of 111-106. The Jazz currently find themselves in the 4th spot in the West, 2 full games ahead of the Clippers & Grizzlies and 3.5 games behind the Rockets. The Pelicans are in a 3-way tie for the 10th spot in the West with the Mavericks and Kings who are 3.5 games behind the Nuggets for the 8th spot.
Gordon Hayward comes into tonight’s game playing some of his best basketball of the season, fresh off two consecutive 30 point games. It was clearly part of the game plan on Monday for Hayward to be aggressive as he attacked the paint early and often to the tune of 15 points in the 1st quarter. Derrick Favors looked fresh in what was easily his best game of the season on Monday with his first 20 and 10 game in nearly a year. It will be interesting to see if Hayward’s aggressiveness and Favors’ freshness carry over against the Pelicans.
The match-up of the night will be at the center position between Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis. The Stifle Tower versus The Unibrower. The All-Star snub vs the 4-time All-Star. The leader in blocks per game (Gobert at 2.54) vs the runner up (Davis at 2.44). Gobert tends to carry chips on his shoulder over slights or perceived lacks of respect and he also has a penchant for smothering opposing star centers defensively in one-on-one match-ups. That being said, Davis is the fifth leading scorer in the NBA right now and a 4-time All-Star for a reason.
All-Star Weekend, which also takes place in New Orleans, is only 9 days away. Hayward is a reserve for the West while Davis is a starter. Both players will also be participating in the Skills Challenge, Davis for ‘The BIGS’ and Hayward for ‘The SMALLS.’ The Jazz will send youngsters Trey Lyles (Canadian) and Danté Exum (Australian) to play in the Rising Stars game where they will play on the ‘World Team’ with Pelicans rookie Buddy Hield (Bahamian). This is your fortnightly reminder that Lyles and Exum are both 21 years young and in their 2nd & 3rd years in the league. Hield is a rookie and 23 years old. That is all.
The Jazz have the 4th best road record in the league at 14-10 and are favored to win tonight’s game by 4 points. The Pelicans are 14-14 at home but are desperate for wins as they look to make a run for the last playoff spot in the West. This should be a good one, folks.