New Orleans Pelicans Preview: Pelicans Face Off With Utah Jazz

"Feb

The New Orleans Pelicans will look to win their final home game before the All-Star Break, as they host the physical Utah Jazz.

Being home has been a nice remedy for the New Orleans Pelicans this season.

While the Pelicans are 6-18 on the road, they host a 14-14 record at home. They brought it back to even two days ago with a victory, against the Phoenix Suns.

They will get the chance to eclipse .500 tonight, versus a daunting challenge.

The Utah Jazz.

Utah is currently flying under-the-radar of the NBA, holding the fourth best record in the Western Conference.

The Jazz hoist the best scoring defense in the league, giving up just 95.4 points per game. That’s over three points less than the second best defense in the league. Utah also shoots the ball very consistently, averaging 46.5% shooting from the field. The Jazz’s gameplan is simple. Grind, grind and grind some more. Their blueprint is a near mirror to the Memphis Grizzlies of the past five years.

The issue with Utah comes in that exact gameplan. The Jazz averages less than 100 points per game, putting up the third worst point production in the NBA. They also average bottom five in the league in assists and bottom ten in rebounds per game. Sure, their pace puts them in position to be low in stats, but they are drastically low in many major categories.

Utah is a team trying to make the jump from fun playoff team, into a legitimate contender. They have the pieces in place, with a strong player at every starting position. The star power is in question, if it will get to the point of leading this squad towards a title run. Still, the Jazz have tons of talent to work with.

For New Orleans, this could be a big testing grounds for them. Many wonder if this team is still ready to compete each night, or is contemplating throwing in the towel on this season. So far, they look behind the rest of the pack in the “Race for Eighth”. A win against a top-four team in the Western Conference could change the perception of the season.

Anthony Davis will have to duel the anchor in the paint in Rudy Gobert. The only person to average more blocks per game than Davis is Gobert. Rudy averages 2.54 rejections per contest and boasts the second best shooting percentage from the field at 65.8%. Add along the fact he’s fifth in the league in rebounds per game at 12.5, and the it is easy to see this being a daunting task for A.D. Davis will likely have to focus his jumper and look to run past Gobert in transition, while boxing him out the best he can on defense.

In the case of Jrue Holiday, he will be matched up with George Hill. Hill is a very capable point guard, who has missed time this year due to injury. The impact on offense is huge, as George is averaging 17.7 points and 4.1 assists in his 28 games played this year. He has not necessarily been the floor general, but the marksman who keeps the slow, methodical offense calm.

For Jrue to win his matchup, he needs to cause havoc for Hill. The Jazz need someone who distributes the ball to the bigs and sets up the floor for clear space. If he can put George out of his element, it could put Utah’s grinding offense at an uncomfortable position.

The Pelicans and Jazz split the season series last year, with both teams winning two games. New Orleans will play Utah three times this year, once in February and twice in March.

This game will come down to the Pelicans using their spacing and speed, in order to counteract the Jazz’s slow gauntlet style. They have capable creators in Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward, yet thrive in a slow-tempo grind, that puts other teams out of their element. New Orleans needs to push the game to their pace, to have a chance against one of the best surprises out West.

This is the time for the Pelicans to turn their season around. A win against a young, rising power would do wonders for their chances to salvage the campaign.

"Feb

Who, When and How to Watch

When and Where: The game will be played at 7:00 PM CST in New Orleans.

How To Watch: The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports New Orleans and NBA League Pass.

Injuries: 

New OrleansQuincy Pondexter (Left Knee) is out.

Utah: Rodney Hood (Right Knee) is out.

Probable Starting Lineups:

New Orleans: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Buddy Hield, SF Solomon Hill, PF Dante Cunningham, C Anthony Davis

Utah: PG George Hill, SG Joe Ingles, SF Gordon Hayward, PF Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert

Other Players to Watch: 

New Orleans: E’Twaun MooreTyreke Evans, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Langston Galloway

Utah: Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Trey Lyles, Boris Diaw and Seven Time All-Star Joe Johnson

What’s Next for the Pelicans?

The New Orleans Pelicans will head back on the road for the rest of the stretch before the All-Star Break. They start their travels in the cold tundra of Minnesota, to play the Timberwolves Friday night. Tip is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

"Feb

Key to the Game: Slice Through the Sturdy Wall in the Paint

For the New Orleans Pelicans to be able to beat the Utah Jazz, they will need to penetrate the sturdy defense inside the paint.

The Jazz are one of the toughest teams to score on next to the basket. However, New Orleans does have two options to get inside more efficiently.

They could lean towards the pick-and-roll option with Davis and Terrence Jones. Utah’s bigs are powerful inside, but on the slower side. The Pelicans could focus speed, to try and force the blocking threats out of the restricted area. If Utah leaves their shooters open, they need to make them.

The other way it could work is in transition. Utah is a great shooting team, yet defense turning into offense has been successful for the Pelicans. New Orleans has the speed to turn misses by the Jazz into points, that is if they execute their transition game effectively.

Either way, they will need to find a way to score easy points, in order to win. Utah will make every basket difficult to find. The Pelicans are going to need points in the paint, much more than past contests, to make this game competitive.

This game will mean a lot for the New Orleans Pelicans. Every loss gets them farther away from the catching the rest of the pack. If New Orleans want to show the NBA they are ready to get recognition as a threat for the eighth seed, then they need to win games versus tough competition. Utah is that tough competition. Time to step up and win, Pels.

This article originally appeared on