Pelicans have tools to beat the jazz

The New Orleans Pelicans are a perfect 3-0 in the All-Star break, posting dominating wins over the Suns, Lakers and Kings. The best measuring stick of the way the Pels are currently playing, however, is set to arrive tonight in a clash against the Utah Jazz.

While the Suns have proven over the past few years that they can still win without Chris Paul, the first few games before and after the All-Star break can produce skewed results. For example, players thinking about an upcoming or returning vacation often lack concentration.

As for the Lakers and Kings, they are nothing more than inferior opponents, at least for now.

On the other hand, the Jazz enter the Smoothie King Center in great shape and have won eight of their last nine meetings. As of Feb. 4, no team has a higher offensive rating and true shooting percentage. Only the Grizzlies smashed the glass harder.

Donovan Mitchell is averaging 28.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 4.7 threes and 1.9 steals during that streak. Also, don’t forget the Utah man in the middle. Zach Lowe underlined the great strength of Rudy Gobert in an article today.

But Gobert is Super awesome. It’s an individual defense – the best rim protector in modern history. It’s underestimating Gobert to call him a “rim” protector. That etiquette involves blocking shots, and Gobert’s impact goes far beyond blocked shots – even beyond scaring players into shooting in the first place.

Gobert is a Paint protective. When he spreads his arms, he clears space in all directions. He takes away shots and inside passes at the same time. When panicked ball handlers look for kick-out options, they find them covered; Utah’s perimeter defenders are staying home knowing Gobert can patrol the inside on his own.

the punters ranked New Orleans a four-point underdog. However, my gut tells me that this new Pelican team is suitably equipped to stop the Jazz.

Mitchell will face Herb Jones, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado. Gobert has averaged just 8.3 points in three games against Jonas Valanciunas this season. The former DPOY is also going to struggle to contain the Pels’ mid-range attack.

Gobert’s effectiveness is often lower in the playoffs as opponents have done a great job of getting him out of the paint. The deadly mid-range plays and game-playing abilities of Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum should accomplish this task.

If Gobert dares the two Pels stars, they can burn him with their shot. If he assists, the pair can choose to get past Gobert on a drive or hit an open teammate with the pass. Or both.

We also can’t ignore the fact that Willie Green has now opted for a rotation where seemingly all players accumulating minutes produce positive value on the pitch.

The Pelicans’ biggest concern in tonight’s game should be Utah’s outside shot. The Jazz have averaged the second-most 3-point attempts and are fifth-best at converting those looks.

While New Orleans just held the Suns, Lakers and Kings to scores well below their season averages, they gave up an extremely high number of 3-point attempts. Still, the trio of opponents failed to take advantage. This weak 3PT% opponent has a chance to regress quickly against Utah.

The Jazz admittedly got the Pelicans number shortly after the Quin Snyder era began in Utah. New Orleans have won just five of 17 games since the start of the 2017-18 season. However, there’s a good chance the Pelicans will pick up their second win of the season against the Jazz – and that won’t require a Devonte ‘Graham winner.

To verify DraftKings Sportsbookthe official sport bets partner of SB Nation.

WHO: New Orleans Pelicans (26-36) against Utah Jazz (39-22)

When: March 4, 2022, 7:00 p.m.

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast stream on itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.

Ada J. Kenney