Pelicans-Jazz Preview

The New Orleans Hornets don’t use many passes in their halfcourt sets and they rank among the leaders in points in the paint.

No team passes the ball as much as the Utah Jazz.

The Pelicans have dropped their last five visits to Salt Lake City ahead of Saturday night’s matchup of contrasting styles against Quin Snyder’s new-look Jazz.

New Orleans (6-5) entered Friday averaging a league-best 49.8 points in the paint before it was outscored there 52-32 in a 117-97 loss at Denver. Coach Monty Williams felt his team got too caught up in the Nuggets’ fast-paced style of play.

”We have an identity,” Williams said. ”When we stray away from that, we get this result.”

That identity is a team which entered Friday averaging an NBA-high .399 points per halfcourt touch. The Pelicans don’t pass the ball much, averaging 256.1 before the Denver game for one of the league’s lowest marks.

That’s in stark contrast to how Utah (5-8) is running its offense in its first season under Snyder. The Jazz began play Friday averaging a league-best 377.2 passes, but it has resulted in only .253 points per halfcourt touch for one of the NBA’s lowest marks.

What’s interesting is the differing approaches have resulted in near-identical shooting percentages. New Orleans is 10th at 46.2 percent and Utah is 11th at 46.1.

Both teams feature Turkish centers in Utah’s Enes Kanter and New Orleans’ Omer Asik. Asik, however, was a late scratch Friday with a back injury that has caused him to miss three straight games.

"It was a bit of a surprise and yet we’ve dealt with it before," Williams said. "But I didn’t think he was going to be a scratch tonight but he was and we had to regroup quickly."

Asik averages 9.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. His replacement, Alexis Ajinca, averages 4.7 and 3.4.

Star forward Anthony Davis had 18 points and nine rebounds Friday. It was the first time in eight games Davis failed to eclipse 20 points.

”We just have to move on,” Davis said. ”You’re going to have games like this.”

The Jazz were singing a similar tune after they fell behind by 15 after one quarter and 22 at the half in Friday’s 101-88 loss at Golden State. Kanter was a bright spot with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

”We got punched and we weren’t ready to take that punch,” Snyder said.

Top scorer Gordon Hayward is averaging 12.3 points on 36.4 percent shooting in his last three games after averaging 24.7 on 55.1 percent over his previous three.

Davis is shooting 63.4 percent against Utah for his best mark against a Western Conference foe. He is averaging 18.8 points in four games in Salt Lake City on 61.5 percent shooting – his best mark in a West city even though New Orleans has lost every time.

New Orleans is 2-0 in the second half of back-to-back games and Utah is 0-3, allowing an average of 109.3 points. Hayward has played well in such contests, averaging 19.3 points on 52.9 percent shooting.