Pelicans.com postgame: Jazz 100, Pelicans 96
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
SALT LAKE CITY – In some ways, Friday’s visit to the Utah Jazz was a 48-minute microcosm of the New Orleans Pelicans’ 2013-14 season: An injury wreaked havoc with the team’s lineups. A defensive breakdown in the second half – which could partly be attributed to the absence of a key player – proved costly. Despite everything stacked up against the Pelicans, they still rallied to make it another nail-biter, ultimately coming up a play or two shy of prevailing.
New Orleans (32-44) lost a fourth consecutive game in a narrow defeat to Utah (24-52), playing without All-Star forward Anthony Davis for a pivotal chunk of the third quarter, when the Jazz put together a momentum-changing rally. The Pelicans led 45-43 at halftime, but with Davis battling back spasms, he had to be replaced in the lineup to start the third quarter. The Jazz capitalized on the absence of the NBA’s No. 1 shot-blocker by racing to a 30-20 edge in that period, eventually building a 10-point advantage.
The outcome appeared to be nearly settled when Utah grabbed a 93-83 lead at 3:18 of the fourth quarter, but New Orleans used a combination of off-balance three-pointers and Jazz miscues to get within 96-93. With 8 seconds left, the Pelicans ran a perfectly-executed play off an inbounds pass, as Tyreke Evans set up Darius Miller for an open three-pointer from the right corner. Making his first start of the season, the second-year forward from Kentucky watched his shot rim in and out, enabling Utah’s Alec Burks to sink two free throws for a 98-93 margin.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts said of Miller’s open chance to tie the score. “We had Tyreke with the ball looking for shooters and he found Darius. It was the best look we could ask for. It just didn’t go in.”
The Pelicans again caused a few more anxious moments for the EnergySolutions Arena crowd when Roberts sank a running line-drive three-pointer with 1.7 seconds to go, but the Jazz’s Gordon Hayward iced the win with a pair of foul shots.
Davis (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks in 23 minutes) was unable to make his usual major impact, for the second game on this road trip appearing uncomfortable at times physically. He tweaked the back injury on a play in which he blocked a shot in the paint, then tumbled into the first few rows of fans while successfully chasing and saving the ball back in bounds.
He was replaced by Alexis Ajinca to start the third quarter, but eventually got back on the court early in the fourth period. However, Pelicans Coach Monty Williams decided to pull Davis for the final three minutes, even though the visitors were not completely out of the game.
“I just took him out,” Williams explained. “At some point, you look at a guy and he wanted to play, and I just said no. We’re not in the playoffs. Every game for me is a championship game, but I’ve got to be smart. I just felt like he couldn’t do what he wanted to do and it didn’t look good with him on the floor. He said he kind of tweaked it a little bit when he went into the crowd, so that kind of set him back, because he was feeling OK until then.”
Anthony Morrow paced New Orleans in scoring with an efficient 26 points on only 11 shots from the field, highlighted by 3-for-3 three-point accuracy. Morrow topped the 20-point mark for the fourth time in the past six games. The Pelicans again fared well at the offensive end, but allowed the Jazz to shoot a too-high 51.6 percent from the field. Two nights earlier, Denver racked up 137 points against New Orleans.
“The bottom line is we gave up too many points in the third quarter,” Morrow said.
“We played decent in the first half,” Williams said. “But our third quarter was about as bad as I’ve seen all year. We certainly can’t play like that on the road against any team.”