NEW ORLEANS — Just like they did two nights earlier in Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz built up a sizable double-digit lead over the New Orleans Pelicans. And just like they did two night earlier, the Jazz saw those big leads dwindle to almost nothing when the Pelicans made a couple of runs as the Jazz started throwing the ball all over the gym and missing baskets.
This time, however, the Jazz regrouped and were able to hold off the pesky Pelicans and come away with a 114-104 victory that moved them to 37-27 on the season, heading into Friday night’s game at Memphis.
“We didn’t want to have a deja vu moment,” said Derrick Favors, who led the Jazz with a season-high 25 points. “We just calmed down a little bit, got back on defense and got a little bit smarter with the ball and stuck to the defensive plan.”
Besides Favors, who made 9 of 11 shots from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell each scored 22 points, with Gobert grabbing 13 rebounds and Mitchell getting seven boards. Four other Jazzmen finished in double figures as Kyle Korver scored 12 off the bench, Jae Crowder added 11 and Joe Ingles had 10 points and 10 assists.
On Monday night the Jazz blew leads of 17 in the first half and 14 in the fourth quarter in losing 115-112 to the Pelicans. Wednesday night, the Jazz twice lost double-digit leads, as an 18-point lead in the third quarter dropped to four and a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter dropped to six. But this time they were able to weather the storm.
“Teams are going to make runs and the best thing for us to talk about every timeout is, we’ve got to guard,” said coach Quin Snyder. “We’ve got to play every possession with our hearts and our minds. We had a few empty possessions, but we guarded really well and were able to respond offensively as well and close the game out at both ends of the floor.”
The Pelicans, who got 30 points from Julius Randle and Jrue Holiday in Monday night’s win, didn’t get the same production Wednesday as Randle finished with 23 points and Holiday 16. Anthony Davis also scored 16 points in his 21 minutes of action, while Jahlil Okafor had 13 off the bench.
Who knows what might have happened if the Pelicans had played Davis in the final quarter. But as they have over the past month since Davis demanded to be traded, he sat on the bench throughout the final quarter and the Pelicans went with players such as undrafted rookie Kenrich Williams, who finished with 12 points in 34 minutes.
After a tight first half, the Jazz started to pull away late in the second quarter and led 58-47 at halftime. By the midway point of the third quarter, the Jazz were cruising along with an 18-point lead at 76-58 when the Pelicans made their first run.
New Orleans went on an 18-4 run to pull within four just before the end of the quarter. During that spell, the Jazz turned the ball over six times as New Orleans cut the lead to 80-76 and got the Smoothie King Center crowd excited for one of the few times all evening. However the Jazz righted themselves with five points in the final 1:11 of the quarter to get some breathing room.3 comments on this story
Then in the fourth quarter the Jazz seemed to have put the Pelicans away for good, pushing the lead to 17 at the 8:08 mark, just about the same time of Monday’s game when they held a similar lead. New Orleans clawed back to within six at the 4:20 mark, but Ricky Rubio made a free throw and Gobert threw down a decisive dunk off a pass from Ingles and made the free throw after a foul. When Crowder stole the ball on the next possession and made an easy dunk, it was basically over.
“It helped that we were in a similar position a few days ago and it was like ‘we can’t let them get back in it,’” said Mitchell. “They’re a good team and we knew they were going to make a run and we were able to withstand it.”
The Jazz flew up to Memphis after the game and will meet the Grizzlies Friday night and try to even the season series at 2-2.