NEW ORLEANS — It may be a long 82-game season, but a single game can make a big difference in the scheme of themes. A team will have unexpected victories, as well as painful, lingering losses. For the Utah Jazz, Friday’s 88-86 loss to the New Orleans Hornets fits the latter description.
It was a tight game throughout, with clutch plays by both teams down the stretch. After Jazz forward Paul Millsap hit a tough three-pointer to tie things up, Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez made a running shot that proved to be the game-winner.
While prized rookie Anthony Davis exited early with a possible concussion, the Hornets enjoyed solid performances from a number of players and played with energy and hustle. Meanwhile the Jazz were out of synch most of the game. Randy Foye paced the Jazz with 20 points in 27 minutes.
Pivotal matchup: In a seemingly under-the-radar transaction, New Orleans picked up serviceable but unspectacular center Robin Lopez. If he plays like he did Friday evening, they may have pulled off a steal-of-a move.
Lopez was active from start to finish, playing tough on both ends of the court. He consistently moved well without the ball, placing himself in solid positions to score. The big man ended the game with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Conversely, Utah center Al Jefferson struggled. While he totaled 10 points and eight boards, he shot just 5 of 13 from the field, many attempts contested by Lopez. Defensively, he had some lapsed that resulted in easy New Orleans put-backs.
Bombs away: During the 2011-2012 season, Utah averaged 4.1 three-point field goals per outing, while attempting just 12.8. Against the Hornets, the Jazz went 10-28. What a difference some additions can make.
In his second impressive performance, Foye led the charge by going 4 of 7 from long distance. Gordon Hayward connected on his first two triples of the young season.
Unfortunately for Utah, New Orleans employs Ryan Anderson, 2012’s league leader in trifectas made. By hitting 5 of 9, the stretch forward is on pace to repeat that this year.
Odds and ends:
- Utah hit 35 field goals, but only 19 came off assists — just 54.3 percent.
- Versus the Mavericks on Wednesday, the Jazz had 92 points through the first three quarters. That was six more points than they had in four quarters of basketball Friday.
- Forward Al-Farouq Aminu also has shown some early improvement, inflicting 15 points and eight rebounds in a very effective effort.
- While bench players led Utah in rebounds (nine by Derrick Favors), assists (six by Jamaal Tinsley), steals (two for Enes Kanter), and blocked shots (two apiece by Favors and Foye), excluding Foye, the other reserves combined to go 5 of 15 (33.3 percent) from the floor.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.