Jazz Small Lineups Fall Short in 98 – 108 Pelicans Loss

January 3rd, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

This Anthony Davis’s (23) dunk off an offensive rebound was an early example of what became a fatal refrain in the fourth quarter of Utah’s 98 to 108 loss to the Pelicans. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Story of the Game

This 98 to 108 loss to the Pelicans is disappointing for a variety of reasons. Losing the first game of a new calendar year is never fun. Losing a home game to the team that currently holds the final playoff spot in the West, only two and a half games ahead of you, is less fun. Losing when you really should have won is least fun.

At halftime, the Jazz had to feel fairly confident that they would come out on top this game despite a three point deficit. The Pelicans had shot the ball extremely well, making 57 percent of their field goals and an even more blistering 10 of 18 (56 percent) from three. At one point they had sniped away at the Jazz to the tune of 10 of 15 from long range. That kind of shooting isn’t sustainable, particularly against a Jazz team that is much better defensively at home than on the road.

Smart money was on the Pelicans regressing to the mean, and that’s exactly what happened. New Orleans shot only 43 percent in the second half, including a predictable four of 12 (33 percent) from long range. Only Utah’s offense plummeted with it, falling from 51 percent shooting in the first half to 38 in the second.

Most damaging of all was the only consistent offensive factor all night: Utah’s impotence from three point land. In the first half this team driven by the three, particularly in the absence of Rudy Gobert, made only four of 16 attempts (25 percent). While odds balanced out New Orleans hot perimeter shooting in the second half, Utah’s sunk even deeper into the freezer. An anemic three of 16 (19 percent) left Utah punchless against an opponent that easily could have been knocked out for the second time in the season.

Instead, New Orleans made 14 bombs to Utah’s seven and increased their lead in the playoff race to three and a half games. Perhaps even more importantly, they pulled even with the Jazz in the case of a playoff tie breaker at one game apiece.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Donovan Mitchell and Joe Johnson

Mitchell didn’t impact this game to the degree he has most this season, despite scoring 24. Jrue Holiday, an often overlooked defender since his injury problems, played Mitchell well, limiting him to a pair of assists and forcing a number of dribble mishaps. Moreover, the rookie’s long ball wasn’t falling as he ended the night three of 11 and only six of 17 from the field. But that’s why he warrants this position: against a quality defender, on a night when open shots he typically makes weren’t falling, he still managed to score 24. Moreover, he was Utah’s only guard to finish the night with a positive plus-minus with the Jazz outscoring the Pelicans by a single point in his 38 minutes.

For most of the night, Johnson was easily Utah’s best offense. Not just offensive player, but the entire offense. His isolation game propped up the team during its horrid shooting, keeping the contest close until late in the fourth. Moreover, he further shook off the peculiar ineptitude that dogged him from three for much of the season. Take away Johnson’s two made threes (on three attempts), and the Jazz’s three point percentage falls to a bowel-numbing 17 percent.

Secondary Star: Derrick Favors

Favors has a history of playing well against Anthony Davis and continued that tonight, at least when he was involved in the game. While Favors’s numbers don’t pop (11 points, nine rebounds, two rebounds, a steal and a block), his impact is best seen in the night’s plus-minus, as Utah won the 35 minutes he played by two points and lost the 13 with him on the bench by 12.

Secret Star: Joe Ingles

It was a typical solid game for the Aussie: eight points (on seven shots), four rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a plus-minus three on the positive side of the ledger. While his two-of-six accuracy from three is disappointing by his high standard, by the team’s standard tonight he was smoking.

Stats of the Game

7 – More three point shots made by the Pelicans than the Jazz, who had only seven total. A team won’t win many games where the opponent doubles them up from long range.

9 – Second chance points in the fourth quarter alone, all by Anthony Davis and Cousins. Quin Snyder has identified this is a weak point for the team and it killed them tonight.

56 – Jazz points in the paint. If the team shoots even average from long range, this is likely a win.

10 percent – Rodney Hood’s field goal percentage, including missing all six of his three point shots. He’s now taken at least 10 shots and made fewer than 30 percent in a quarter of his games this season.

30 percent – Utah has shot this poorly or worse from three 11 times this year. They lost every one of these games.

Sundries

  • New Orleans entered the night humming at the league’s 6th fastest pace of play while Utah, despite playing faster than previous seasons, ranked 26th. This game had about 100 possessions. Win Pelicans.
  • New Orleans is a unique team with Davis and Cousins sharing the court so often. In the previous Jazz victory between these teams, Utah benefited from Davis leaving the game late with injury as he had been killing Jazz stretch fours in the post, particularly Jonus Jerebko. Tonight was a similar story only amplified in the fourth quarter, when Pelicans’s coach Alvin Gentry moved Cousins outside the arc and made him an entry passer for Davis. By keeping Favors away from the hoop and attacking whoever he wasn’t guarding, not only did Davis and Cousins dominate with their scoring–19 fourth quarter points–but they destroyed Utah on the offensive glass. If the Jazz would ever benefit from playing Gobert and Favors together, it is against this team. They missed having that option tonight.
  • This is turning out to be a rough season for Hood. Tonight his shot was off–and when he’s off he’s really off. Yet he clearly tried to attack the hoop but only served to put on display how shaky his handle is when trying to penetrate against a set defender, turning the ball over four times and losing his balance on almost every drive. After the expectations saddled on him entering the season, these grotesque shooting games are killing his confidence. And to be honest, they’re killing the Jazz. Utah has had 21 players take at least 10 shots in a game where they shot at or below 30 percent from the field. Here are the team’s winning percentage in those games:
      • Hood: .143 in seven games
      • Burks: .250 in four games
      • Mitchell: .500 in four games
      • Rubio: .000 in three games
      • Ingles: .500 in two games
      • Sefolosha: 1.00 in one game
      • Favors: .000 in one game
  • The Jazz have been outscored by 87 with Hood in the game this season. In Alec Burks’s minutes, they’ve outscored opponents by 27. They’ve been outscored by 111 with Rubio on the court. With Mitchell in the game they’ve managed to outscore opponents (by two), despite the hellish December schedule. The guard line needs adjustment: in shot distribution, and minutes, and roles. The team may really be missing Dante Exum.

As much as was written about December’s brutal schedule, January isn’t lining up a series of cream puffs for Utah to gobble down. Eight of their remaining 12 games in the month are on the road, including the next four. They get another shot at a playoff rival in Denver on Friday before heading back East.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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