Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Jazz at Pelicans (3/11/18)

by Jim Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Sunday’s game at the Smoothie King Center between Utah and New Orleans (3 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM):

10-1, 9-2: Records for New Orleans and Utah, respectively, since Feb. 10. Over the past month of basketball, there aren’t many NBA teams who’ve been hotter than the Pelicans and Jazz. Defense has been a key for both squads, with Utah ranking first in the league in defensive efficiency (94.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, via during that timeframe, while New Orleans is ranked ninth (104.7), a vast improvement from the Pelicans’ performance earlier in the regular season. Utah’s defensive stinginess is a virtual outlier in comparison to the rest of the NBA – consider that the gap between the Jazz’s rating of 94.7 and the next-best team (Indiana at 100.4) is even larger than the one between No. 2 and New Orleans in ninth. Not coincidentally, Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert are among the best in the league at blocking shots. Davis (game-time decision for Sunday) ranks second among all players; Gobert’s average of 2.3 swats per game would put him in contention for the league lead, but he has not played in enough games (40) yet to qualify. New Orleans has also received a big boost at that end of the floor from the February signing of center Emeka Okafor.

66.7: Season-best three-point percentage for Utah in its 133-109 win at New Orleans on Feb. 5. While still trying to adjust to the season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins in late January, the Pelicans were blitzed by the Jazz’s perimeter shooters, who went 14/21 from beyond the arc in the Smoothie King Center. It was Utah’s top performance from long distance of the regular season by a wide margin, with its second-best accuracy rate in any game being 56.3 percent vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 25. One good piece of news for New Orleans is that the Jazz player who did the most damage in that matchup – Rodney Hood (4/4) – has been traded to Cleveland. Joe Ingles also connected on four three-pointers in Utah’s 24-point road win.

1, 30: Rankings in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) for New Orleans and Utah, respectively, since Feb. 10, making the Pelicans and Jazz the fastest and slowest teams in the NBA over the past month. That high-speed approach is one reason why New Orleans was so consistently able to surpass 120 points during its 10-game winning streak. Utah figures to try to slow the tempo of Sunday’s contest considerably and play a style much more fitting for a team that often relies heavily on conventional bigs Gobert and Derrick Favors. The Jazz’s recent game-by-game points allowed look like those from some previous era of the NBA, including giving up just 78 at Memphis on Friday and 84 to Indiana on Wednesday. Utah incredibly has held its opponent under 100 points in 11 of its last 13 games.