Pelicans play the matador against hot Jazz

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Donovan Mitchell has been a gem of a rookie for Utah. He is averaging nearly 20 points per game. It is amazing that so many teams passed on him in the draft.

Monday night at Smoothie King Center, Mitchell was virtually invisible, going 1-for-6 from the field and scoring just two points. That was coming off of a 40-point, virtuoso performance in a big win over San Antonio.

With Mitchell doing nothing, you would think that the New Orleans Pelicans would fare well against the Jazz, playing at home at the Smoothie King Center.

Instead, Utah had its way, doing whatever it wanted in an impressive offensive performance as the Jazz mauled the Pelicans 133-109.

First and foremost, give Utah credit for playing well and shooting well.

Utah shot 52-of-89 (58.4%) from the field and a blistering 14-of-21 (66.7%) from 3-point range. For good measure, the Jazz were 15-of-17 (88.2%) from the free throw line. It was a shooting clinic.

It was anything but a clinic on how to play defense by the Pelicans. Of course, this is a familiar, disturbing, recurring theme.

Defense is largely about attitude.

Of course, you must have the ability to defend. Some are more equipped than others.

Watching this game, the Pelicans were defenseless. Effort was minimal. The Jazz got open looks way too often from the perimeter. They got easy baskets inside.

When you are contending for a playoff spot, to get beat this badly at home is unacceptable. We will keep hearing about adjusting without Boogie Cousins and that is legitimate. As previously stated (the obvious), that is such a tough loss to overcome.

Still, 109 points is plenty enough to win in the NBA. When you don’t defend, you won’t win.

Another troubling number from the game was 45-30, the rebound margin which Utah enjoyed over New Orleans.

Sure, Rudy Gobert is back and Cousins is missing but that is no excuse to get hammered so badly on the glass.

Were it not for Rajon Rondo, not known for his shooting or scoring, going off with 18 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, it would have been worse.

After a stunningly good debut, Nikola Mirotic came down to earth, scoring just five points in 33 minutes. He was a non-factor.

Then again, so was Anthony Davis, who scored just 15 points in 35 minutes. New Orleans has little or no chance when its superstar is not a superstar.

The end result is that New Orleans falls to eighth in the Western Conference, just a half game ahead of the Clippers. New Orleans is a modest 14-12 at home and that is simply not good enough.

Meanwhile, Utah is rolling with Gobert back in the lineup, winners of six straight and 7-2 with the big man back on the floor. The Jazz are just three games back of the Pelicans.

Indiana, which has been surprisingly good this season, comes calling Wednesday night. The Pacers have gotten the most out of their talent this season. They will play hard. If the Pelicans do not play harder, with a sense of purpose on the defensive end of the floor, another bad result will follow and an overall bad result to the season will not be far behind. That is what happens when you play matador defense. Sooner or later, you get gored.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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