Jazz face Pelicans in search of better home results

NBA Basketball

Whether for skiing or attending the Sundance Film Festival, it is common for visitors to spend time in Utah during January.

And the New Orleans Pelicans?

They are in Salt Lake City for an extended business trip, playing games against the Utah Jazz on both Tuesday and Thursday.

If things go well for the Pelicans in both games they can leave with the same number of wins in Utah as the Jazz have: two.

Although Utah is riding a Rocky Mountain high all the way home after beating Northwest Division rival Denver on Sunday for a fifth-consecutive victory, the Jazz haven’t had as much success at home (2-2) as on the road (7-2).

Winning twice in Utah won’t be an easy task for New Orleans, which snapped a five-game losing streak with a 128-123 victory at Sacramento on Sunday. It came on the same night the Jazz earned their fifth straight victory when they defeated the Nuggets.

The Jazz will have to be wary of a letdown. Utah’s 108-104 road win came in the first rematch since Denver rallied out of a 3-1 deficit to win their classic first-round playoff series last season. It was one of those circle-the-date-on-the-calendar games.

“It’s still the Jazz and the Nuggets. Whether you need to reference (the playoffs) or not, your players remember,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after Sunday’s victory. “Given the fact that it is the first time we have played them since then, I don’t know if it’s in the front of your mind, but it is certainly something you have thought about.”

The win over the Nuggets highlighted the improved versatility of the Jazz roster. All-Star Donovan Mitchell had a rough shooting night to finish with 18 points, but reserve Jordan Clarkson scored 23 points, All-Defensive Team member center Rudy Gobert had 15 points and 13 rebounds, Bojan Bogdanovic added 17 points and Mike Conley dished out eight assists with 14 points. Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang, and even rookie Miye Oni, played key roles.

“It’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows where we execute the game plan 110 percent,” said Mitchell, who struggled to a two-point first half. “We went out there and for us, just asserting our will, finding ways to win the game by any means necessary.”

The Pelicans needed a variety of big nights to overcome a career-best 43-point performance by Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox on Sunday.

Three New Orleans players had 20-plus points as Zion Williamson led the way with 31. That was one point short of a season-high as he made 13-of-15 shots. Brandon Ingram added 22 points and Eric Bledsoe scored 21.

“He finds his way to the rim regardless of the defense and he’s a good finisher,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said of Williamson. “He probably should shoot twice as many free throws as he does. He’s not even getting calls and he’s efficient.”

The game could be the first time Derrick Favors faces New Orleans after playing for the Pelicans last year in between stints with Utah. Favors is listed as day-to-day because of his ailing knee.

Joe Ingles (Achilles) and Juwan Morgan (COVID-19 protocol) are out for Utah, and Lonzo Ball won’t play for the Pelicans due to a knee injury.

–Field Level Media

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