Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Perimeter defense key for New Orleans in rematch at Utah
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell has quickly gained the respect of some of the NBA’s biggest stars, as an ultra-talented guard whose upside seems to be through the roof. New Orleans players need no further evidence of Mitchell’s ability than the Pelicans’ Dec. 1 visit to Utah, when Mitchell racked up a still-season-high of 41 points in a 114-108 Jazz win.
Slowing down the likes of Mitchell and athletic wing Alec Burks (24 points off the bench in the Dec. 1 game) is a top priority for New Orleans (18-18) on Wednesday, in a rematch against Utah (16-21) in Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“I feel like we have to be the aggressor,” Pelicans forward/guard E’Twaun Moore said of his team’s defense, after Wednesday morning shootaround in Utah. “Don’t let them just attack us the whole time. Try to get up into them and be more physical. That will be a big key.
“They’re definitely a good team that can hurt you inside and out, driving to the paint, shooting. We’ve just got to be ready to play and match their energy.”
Speaking of energy, Utah’s venue is usually loud and hostile toward visiting teams, part of the Jazz’s homecourt advantage. Utah has been a drastically different team at home (13-6) compared to on the road (3-15) this season and has had tremendous success against New Orleans in the Mountain time zone. The Jazz are 8-2 against the Pelicans since the 2012-13 season, dating back to Anthony Davis’ rookie campaign.
“They play hard and compete,” Davis said Wednesday of Utah.
Other notes from Wednesday’s shootaround in the Beehive State:
New Orleans enters tonight ranked No. 25 in defensive efficiency (107.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). Other than the obvious need to improve in that category as soon as possible, this upcoming stretch should carry an urgency based on the opposition. Five of the next six opponents are ranked in the bottom half of the NBA in offense (Utah is No. 17, Detroit is 18, Memphis is 23, Portland is 26, New York is 16 with a game at No. 5 Minnesota in between), meaning the time is now to start making strides on defense. …
Only four games separate the West’s fifth-place team Oklahoma City (20-17) and 10th-place Utah (16-21). Though the standings are extremely tight, there has not been much discussion about the race among Pelicans players. Still, they understand the importance of each game in terms of how it can swing their positioning.
“I just go out and try to win every game,” Moore said. “We need every win we can get.”