Pelicans Give Jazz a Taste of the Blues in 104-94 Win


New Orleans will always be the true home of jazz, no matter what Utah basketball fans have to say about it. The Jazz fans in EnergySolutions Arena last night, were given a heavy dose of the blues from a Pelicans team that came to play.

The Pelicans (7-18) almost let the game fall into the hands of the awaiting Jazz (10-14), but a strong finish on both ends of the floor was more than enough to seal the deal and pull out the much needed victory.

The third quarter has been tough all season for the Pels, and tonight was no different.

They lost the quarter 29-22, and the Jazz appeared to be trending towards pulling away with a lead. Perhaps the biggest reason the Pelicans were able to stay in it at that point was the aggressive and efficient play of Ryan Anderson.

Dec 16, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker (33) during the second half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. New Orleans won 104-94. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan is known around the league as an elite perimeter threat. However, so much focus is put on his outside shooting (for good reason) that his improvement as a skilled scorer around the basket has gone largely unnoticed.

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Anderson had only 1 three point attempt tonight (which he hit) and was still able to score 24 points on only 10 shots, largely thanks to a beautiful 13-13 from the free throw line.

He wasted no time getting to work once the ball was in his hands and he made every Jazz player who was even half a step too slow pay the price. The effort was consistent throughout the entire game, but it really kept the Pelicans afloat in the third quarter.

There was a lot of action at the free throw line for both teams tonight and the Pels were able to take advantage. As a team they hit 26-28 free throw attempts, with the only two misses coming from Alonzo Gee and Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans have been near the top of the league in free throw percentage for most of this season, and if they keep getting so many opportunities it will really help them dictate the tempo of the game.

Dec 16, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

In the fourth quarter, the defense was able to kick things into a gear we simply have not seen from this Pels team all season long.

The Jazz were only able to score 15 points in the frame, the lowest total the Pels have allowed all season long. Between forcing tough opportunities and taking the ball away completely, the defense was firing on all cylinders.

Not all was well on that side of the ball though.

The Jazz were able to get 29 free throw attempts of their own, and they knocked down 23 of them. Both teams certainly got a fair share of calls throughout this game, and I feel that its safe to say that the Pelicans actually fouled much less than the numbers show.

I am personally a big fan of Gordon Hayward, and he has been able to make a craft out of creating contact and drawing fouls over the last couple of years. His off-arm tends to initiate most of it, but he usually gets the benefit of the doubt.

Similar to holding in the NFL, referees are either going to call it every time, or not at all. Unfortunately the Pelicans saw the latter tonight.

The offense was efficient from the field tonight, knocking down 10-21 three pointers and 47% of all shots.

Eric Gordon carried the load a bit in the first and third quarters, as he has done quite a few times in the past. He was red-hot to start the game, knocking down all 4 of his threes early on.

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  • To start the second half, he was able to get to the basket for an easy lay-up and knockdown three shots at the charity stripe after getting fouled behind the arc.

    Gordon has a tendency to fade in and out of games at times, but if he can rip off a couple of nice runs like this each game, the Pelicans will live with it.

    Things got better towards the end, but it was a fairly rough night for Tyreke Evans running the point.

    When he controls the ball, Evans has a tendency to hover around the top of the arc until the play clock hits single digits. It is because he waits so long a lot of the time that he tallies so many assists.

    This is even more frustrating when we get a glimpse of how good Evans can be when being quick and decisive. His best two passes of the night were a beautiful skip pass off of a steal and a quick lob to Anthony Davis.

    Dec 16, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) defends against New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    What did those two plays have in common?

    Evans wasted no time getting the pass off. He is so good at getting to the basket that he sometimes tunnels on the few feet in front of him and fails to capture everything else happening on the court. If he could just find a rhythm with the flow of a quick ball movement offense, he could be racking up more assists than he could count.

    Tonight’s win was a good one for a struggling New Orleans team to have, especially to kick off a road trip.

    They will now head to Phoenix to play the Suns on Friday (ESPN, 9:30 CST) and to Denver on Sunday (7 pm CST). Things are still not looking fantastic at 7-18, but the Pels are still only 4 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

    A nice little run to end 2015 would mean a lot heading into the New Year…..