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Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) battles for a loose ball with New Orleans Hornets small forward Al-Farouq Aminu (0) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, April 13, 2012.

The now 17-42 New Orleans Hornets are wishing they could play the Utah Jazz every night. For the second time at home, the Hornets surprised the Jazz with a spirited victory. And their lone defeat in Utah was by just four points.

Conversely, the Jazz have to be glad to not have to face their unexpected nemesis until next season. In a disheartening and frustrating game, Utah failed to help control their destiny. With the Phoenix Suns defeating the Houston Rockets, the playoff picture becomes even more muddled.

Likewise, the Jazz’s potential Golden State Warriors top-seven protected draft pick also took a hit as the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors snuck out wins, although the Detroit Pistons did lose, aiding the cause a bit.

Passive play: One of the most perplexing aspects of the game was the passive way the Utah backcourt came out. While their frontcourt teammates hustled, rebounded and scored the ball, the Jazz guards play was uninspired.

Off the heels of his dominant performance in Houston, Gordon Hayward struggled from the tip-off and could never really get going. He had just eight points, a far cry from the 18.5 points he had been averaging in April. While he dished out five assists, he had a difficult time handling the ball, bobbling passes and getting the ball stripped. All three of his turnovers came early on.

Devin Harris was even more passive. He had just six field goal attempts, making just one. Making a mere three points, Harris distributed eight assists.

The Hornets' guards, on the other hand, dominated. They played with great aggressiveness and confidence. Eric Gordon, in just his sixth game of the season, was the best player in the game. His 25 points and six assists took the wind out of Utah’s sail. In the fourth quarter, he made one big play after another. Point guard Greivis Vasquez orchestrated the offense nicely, with 11 points, six assists and just one turnover.

Defensive doldrums: Utah’s defense, which was instrumental in recent wins, was the thorn in their side. The Hornets did not have to work hard to get good shots and they made the most of their shots, hitting a blistering 38 of 69 from the field — 55.1 percent. They also drained six of 13 three-point attempts, a 46.2 percent clip. They assisted on 25 of the 38 makes.

Utah was a step slow all night and was not as active, something that has spurred big runs of late. They had seven steals and five blocked shots, numbers that are below their recent outputs.

This and That:

  • The injured Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson were not to blame for Utah’s offensive woes, combining to make 19 of 34 field goals.
  • New Orleans starters outscored Utah’s 74-57.
  • Derrick Favors had his second consecutive double-double, with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
  • Rookie Alec Burks had his best game in the past two weeks, hustling his way to nine points and a career-high seven rebounds.
  • For the second time in a row, DeMarre Carroll was held scoreless, after tallying double figures the outing before.

David Smith is providing instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage this season. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also blogs for the Utah Jazz 360 website. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.