Pelicans look to sweep home-and-home from Jazz
The Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans face each other for the second time in three days when they meet Wednesday night in New Orleans.
The Pelicans beat the host Jazz 115-112 on Monday night, extending their winning streak to three games and ending Utah's win streak at four.
But that doesn't change the fact that these teams appear headed toward different postseason fates -- Utah (36-27) likely going to the playoffs and New Orleans (30-36) almost certainly not.
The Jazz have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA in the new year, and they have climbed to the sixth spot in the Western Conference after a disappointing start to the season.
The whole season has been a disappointment for New Orleans, but the Pelicans are playing some of their best basketball of late, even if it is too late for a postseason run.
They finished 3-1 on their annual Mardi Gras road trip, after posting their longest winning streak since Jan. 5-9. Now New Orleans is back home to start Lent looking to tie its longest win streak of the season, which came during a 4-0 start.
"I think this season we have been in most of our games, and down the stretch (in losses) we didn't complete the game," Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said. "As of late, we have doing a really good job of that executing and getting big wins."
The Pelicans' improved play has coincided with a significant reduction in All-Star forward Anthony Davis' role since he demanded a trade. New Orleans has chosen not to play Davis in both games of back-to-back sets and has restricted him to about 20 minutes when he does play.
The Pelicans overcame a 19-point deficit to beat Northwest Division-leading Denver 120-112 on Saturday, as Davis sat out one night after a 130-116 victory at Phoenix.
Davis was back in the lineup against Utah despite battling illness and had 15 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes, but he was overshadowed by Holiday and Julius Randle, who had 30 points each as New Orleans fought back from a 17-point deficit.
The victory was just the Pelicans' second in the last 10 games against the Jazz, who won the first meeting this season in New Orleans 132-111 on Oct. 27.
"Obviously, they're a great team and (Wednesday's game) is going to be a great challenge," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, "but you know we are getting to play at home, and that can help."
Despite Monday's loss, Utah is 18-7 since Jan. 1 following an 18-20 start, and it appears to have a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The loss to the Pelicans marked the beginning of a finishing stretch in which the Jazz play 16 of their final 20 games against teams currently at .500 or below.
It looked like Utah would take advantage of the first opportunity in that stretch, as it led by 14 with 8:10 to play, but it couldn't hold on as New Orleans finished with a 26-9 run.
Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver came off the bench to score 20 points each and lead the Jazz. Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 19 rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell had 19 points and nine assists.
"We played well enough offensively to win," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "But we weren't able to get stops, and we let them back in the game."
Utah turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 21 points for the Pelicans, who committed just eight turnovers.
"Mistakes always hurt you," Snyder said. "It's that simple."
The Jazz hope to have a strong finish comparable to last season, when they won 29 of their last 35 games to finish the season,
Utah played Monday without Dante Exum (left ankle sprain), Raul Neto (left hamstring tightness) and Tony Bradley (right knee surgery).
--Field Level Media
Updated March 5, 2019