"Best Defensive Game Of The Season" | Five Things To Know Following Utah's Victory Over New Orleans

Ryan Kostecka
Digital Content Writer

Utah assumed it wouldn't be easy with New Orleans in town. 

After all, the Pelicans had surged to first place in the Western Conference over the past few weeks, riding a seven-game win streak and 12 of their past 14.

Although it wasn't easy, the Jazz made it look that way.

Led by six players in the double figures and a dominant defensive effort, Utah picked up one of its best wins of the season following their 121-100 victory over New Orleans on Tuesday night. 

"That's a really good team that we just played. … They've been playing some of the best basketball in the NBA lately," head coach Will Hardy said. "I'm very proud of the team tonight. Six guys in double figures and 31 assists, showed we played together on the offensive end. … Just a really good team effort."

Here are five things to know following the win:

1.) Defense, Defense, Defense
While there were many impressive individual performances on Tuesday night, Utah's collective defensive effort stood out most. 

The Jazz held the Pelican's offense — ranked 3rd in scoring and 5th in rating — to just 100 points and a 97 offensive rating. It was their second-lowest scoring game of the season. 

The Jazz were sensational on defense, forcing the Pelicans into contested midrange jumpers while making life difficult at the rim. They baited New Orleans into midrange shots and attacked them with aggressive closeouts. 

For the game, Utah held the Pelicans the 39.8% (37-for-93) from the floor and 14.8% (4-for-27) from three-point territory. While New Orleans did miss a few open shots, a lot of that can be attributed to the Jazz not allowing them to get into any offensive rhythm. 

"What stood out to me was how connected we were on the defensive end. … That's our best defensive game of the season," Hardy said. "Identifying the game plan, helping each other, rebounding as a team. … I thought our guys did a great job holding our own on that end. It allowed us to come out of here with a big win in front of the home crowd."

2.) Second Unit Strong
Coming into the game, the Pelicans had surged to first place in the Western Conference, thanks mainly to the play of their second unit. That group had constantly won their minutes in dominating fashion, a major factor in the win streak. 

On Tuesday, Utah beat New Orleans at their own game, outscoring the Pelicans 60-38. 

Malik Beasley was on fire from deep, finishing with a team-high 21 points. Nickeil Alexander-Walker chipped in 19 points and six assists, while rookie center Walker Kessler added 11 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, and three blocks. 

"I think the second unit has been a great strength of ours as well," Hardy said. "We've leaned heavily on them throughout the season, all those guys have been massive parts where we are in the season. We love our bench, we trust our bench. … I was happy with the way they played."

3.) V8 Living Up To The Nickname
With three of Utah's starters back, Jarred Vanderbilt looked the most rejuvenated. 

He was arguably the best player on the court Tuesday night, dominating on both ends after finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds — both of which were season-highs. He added six assists, getting Jazz Nation excited in the third quarter when he was on triple-double watch. 

His defensive length and high motor terrorized the Pelicans all game long as he grabbed eight offensive rebounds, adding one block and a steal. 

4.) Markkanen Returns
After missing the last week with an illness, Markkanen insisted he was good to go when speaking with reporters Tuesday morning. He said it was all about finding an early rhythm and that he would let the game come to him.

Newsflash, it didn't take long. 

He scored Utah's first six points en route to finishing with 19 for the game, adding 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. He shot 8-of-16 from the field and 2-for-7 from beyond the arc, even missing a few open ones that he normally knocks down. 

His presence in the lineup and on the court allowed Utah's offense to flow much more freely. He was also excellent defensively when matched up with Pelicans star Zion Williamson.

5.) #SCTop10
While Tuesday was special enough following the return of so many players and the victory in the end, there were numerous plays throughout that night that left fans with their mouths wide open and Vivint Arena rocking.

While each play was incredible in its own right, it's up to Jazz Nation to choose which was best...

Clarkson had one of the most unreal finishes at the rim...

Kessler blocked Williamson twice...

Vanderbilt had both a thunderous dunk and incredibly acrobatic finish...