Pelicans fall to Jazz, drop second straight at home
NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis put up another historic performance on his 25th birthday, but the Utah Jazz played the role of party pooper with a 116-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis, who returned after missing Friday’s loss to the Washington Wizards, posted his first career triple-double in the loss. AD scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and blocked a career-high and team-record 10 shots, but he got precious little support from his teammates against Utah as the Pels fell for the second time in a row after winning 10 straight.
“It doesn’t matter,” Davis said of his big night. “We lost, so I don’t really care about any career high or anything like that. We lost.”
The Jazz won their sixth consecutive game and have been victorious in 18 of their last 20. Utah took the season series with New Orleans, 3-1.
Ricky Rubio dominated Rajon Rondo and E’Twaun Moore to the tune of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Donovan Mitchell scored 25 of his 27 in the second half and Rudy Gobert added 19 points and 16 boards.
The Pelicans were beaten badly on the glass, getting outrebounded 55-38, and allowing the Jazz to snag 17 offensive boards.
New Orleans seemed out of sorts from the outset as the Jazz took a 29-23 lead after one quarter. Utah was aggressive in attacking the rim, and Davis seemed to be the only impediment to the Jazz’s repeated forays into the lane. Offensively, the Pelicans spent their time scraping the paint off of the rim, shooting 9-25 in the quarter.
“I thought we got off to a little bit of a tough start ’cause we weren’t making baskets,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “And then I thought we found a rhythm, but I never thought we really got, and I think that’s been the last two games, where we never really got into a rhythm, offensively, of moving the basketball or cutting, getting layups.”
The Pels were able to claw back into the game in the second quarter with a stronger defensive effort. Jrue Holiday was tenacious in holding Mitchell to two points and Davis and Emeka Okafor continued to patrol the lane aggressively. With Utah held to 19 points, the Pelicans found themselves up 51-48 at the half.
But it was the Rubio-Mitchell show in the second half. Whether it was through consistently beating the Pelicans on the pick and roll or by knocking down jumpers, the duo picked up the scoring pace and the Jazz found their tempo.
Mitchell was on fire during the final three minutes of the third, scoring 15 points in an amazing series of scoring plays.
“He just got loose, said Ian Clark, who had 14 off the bench. “He’s a good player. He made a couple shots and he got himself going. After that, we were kind of going downhill. We were kind of climbing an uphill battle. Like I said, when they are making shots and we aren’t, it’s hard to get in the rhythm we want to finish the game.”
“They did a good job of getting into the paint, really,” Gentry added. “All the penetration that they had I thought hurt us because we kept the pressure on our big guys of trying to play two. We had to try to play a roll guy, (Rudy) Gobert, one of those guys and you had to try to continue to stop the ball. They did a good job of exploiting it, really, and they’re pretty good at dribble-handoffs and things like that.”
A three point halftime lead turned into a four point deficit heading into the fourth quarter before the wheels fell completely off for the Pelicans.
The Jazz scored 38 points in the final quarter and the Pelicans had neither the firepower or the resolve to challenge.
“I think, during the win streak, we had a lot of resilience,”Clark said. “We’d get down, teams would make runs and we would be able to bounce back. The last two games we have been wavering there, but I think we can get back to it.”
The Pelicans fell to 17-14 at home, as sustained success at home continues to elude the team. Davis believes it a challenge the team still has time to overcome.
“We played a bit at home on that little (10-game winning) streak,” he said. “We have just got to get back to playing how we have been playing, playing fast, playing together.”
Playing fast is definitely a factor as the Pelicans failed to get up at least 100 field goal attempts for the third game in a row, after doing so nine times during the streak.
“I didn’t think that we pushed the basketball as hard as we’ve been pushing it,” Gentry said, “and against that team, you have to play in an open court and you’ve got to play fast and you’ve got to try to get your offense set before they get their defense set because they’re really good in half-court defense once they get set.”
With the Charlotte Hornets visiting on Tuesday, the Pelicans need to close this three-game home stand with a win as they now sit 1.5 games ahead of 10th place in the Western Conference. A few more poor outings and the Pelicans could fall from home court advantage in the first round to right out of the playoffs.
It may not be time to panic, but it is time to wonder if the Pelicans, who play 16 games in the next 30 days, have enough in the tank to hold on and hang on to their playoff spot.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…