Pelicans fall to Utah as schedule gauntlet begins
The gauntlet has begun.
The New Orleans Pelicans are faced with facing the three best teams in the Western Conference in four nights in New Orleans.
The first of those games came Monday night against long-time nemesis Utah.
Yes, the Pelicans managed to split with Utah in Salt Lake City earlier this year but traditionally, this has been a very difficult matchup for the Pelicans.
That was certainly the case in this one as Utah, the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA, showed that skill in its fullness in a 115-104 victory at Smoothie King Center.
Utah buried New Orleans from 3-point range, sinking 19-of-39 (48.7 percent) and outscored the Pelicans 57-36 from beyond the arc, the clear difference in the game.
Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans got Jonas Valanciunas and Brandon Ingram back. One was very good, the other was not.
Valanciunas returned to the lineup from Covid issues with 25 points and nine rebounds.
Ingram, returning from an Achilles injury, scored just 10 points on 3-of-18 shooting, including just 1-of-7 from 3-point range.
Valanciunas picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and 26 seconds, necessitating Willy Hernangomez entering the game early.
The Pelicans led 24-23 after one quarter but Utah slowly took control beginning in the second quarter, outscoring New Orleans 29-25 to take a 52-49 halftime lead. It was 82-77 going to the fourth quarter when Utah and Mitchell turned it on, outscoring the Pels 33-27 to pull away for the win.
In the final frame, New Orleans got within three points at 82-79 but got no closer.
Josh Hart had 15 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans.
Now 13-24, the task grows even more difficult as the Pelicans face the second of a back-to-back against an elite Phoenix team Tuesday night. Then comes the team with the best record in the league in Golden State on Thursday.
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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…