Pelicans better but not good enough in second straight loss at Utah
It is a quirk in any schedule to face the same team twice in three days on their home floor.
That was the plight for the New Orleans Pelicans in Utah.
In the altitude of Salt Lake City, the Pelicans could not raise the level of their game to meet the level of a good basketball team as New Orleans lost by double-figures again, this time 129-118 to the Jazz.
The Pelicans came out on fire, scoring a season-high for points in a quarter with 43 in the opening quarter to take a 43-31 lead, playing with great pace.
Of course, the hot shooting could not continue and Utah was scoring as well.
The former did not continue while the latter did.
By halftime, Utah led 70-69.
The Jazz dominated the second half to win rather easily. The closest New Orleans got in the fourth quarter was within six points.
The Pelicans shot well enough, to the tune of 49.4 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range but once again, as always, New Orleans was outscored 51-33 from beyond the arc.
There was balance, with five New Orleans players in double figures, a bit of a rarity.
Zion Williamson continued his brilliant play on the offensive end of the floor, scoring 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting but he needed more shots.
Brandon Ingram scored 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting but he needed more shots.
The only way to create more shots for the two stars is for guards to locate, penetrate, space and get the ball to the two stars.
Of course, it would help if those guards made some shots and forced defenders to respect them.
Lonzo Ball did score 14 points with five assists but he was just 6-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range. By any measure, Ball should not be taking more shots than Williamson and Ingram.
In 11 games, Ball is shooting just 38.8 percent from the field and a paltry 28.6 percent from 3-point range. He will continue to get open looks as defenses collapse on Williamson and double Ingram whenever possible out on the floor.
Eric Bledsoe was a non-factor.
In 28 minutes, Bledsoe scored eight points on 4-of-12 shooting, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range.
As always, Steven Adams did his job with eight points and 16 rebounds and three assists though, uncharacteristically, Adams committed five turnovers.
JJ Redick played well off the bench with 11 points, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker was also solid off the bench with 11 points in just 18 minutes and recorded the best +/- ratio of any Pelican player at plus eight.
What you like about Alexander-Walker, unlike Ball, is his ability to penetrate and get to the rim. He can finish with either hand and can get to the free throw line, which he did for seven attempts Thursday night.
Josh Hart was solid with seven points, eight rebounds and three assists off the bench.
Disappointingly, Kira Lewis only logged three minutes.
We will continue to lobby for Lewis to get more time.
Utah has what the Pelicans do not have.
The Jazz can shoot.
In fact, Utah leads the NBA in 3-pointers, a large reason it has won seven straight games.
Donovan Mitchell is among the best players in the league and he showed it again, scoring 36 points. The Pelicans had no answer for him.
Now 5-9, the Pelicans will conclude their difficult road trip at Minnesota Friday night.
The Timberwolves have lost three straight and have the worst record in the Western Conference at 3-10. Perhaps the road trip will conclude on a positive note.
Of course, for that to happen, New Orleans will have to defend better, perhaps significantly better.
After starting the season in promising fashion on the defensive end, New Orleans has now allowed 118.1 points over its last eight games, going 2-6 in those contests.
The Pelicans were better the second time around against Utah and it was nowhere good enough against a good, hot team.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…