New Orleans Pelicans aim to contain Utah Jazz’s perimeter game

Jan 19, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) looks to pass the ball while defended by New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe (5) during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

All this talk of unprecedented times certainly rings true in Utah, but the oft-used phrase has nothing to do with a pandemic or a divisive presidential election.

As they demonstrated yet again in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz are shooting and relying on 3-pointers more than they ever have as a franchise.

Entering Thursday night’s TNT-televised rematch against New Orleans in Salt Lake City, they are also making more long shots than ever before.

“The biggest thing is we’re shooting our shots,” said Donovan Mitchell, whose team has won six straight in part because of the long-ball trend. “We’re not passing up 3s.”

Tell the Pelicans about it.

On Tuesday, Utah drained 21 3-pointers in an outside shooting blitz that overshadowed another huge offensive outing by Zion Williamson. The New Orleans star notched a second-straight 30-point game for the first time in his NBA career, but his 32 points weren’t nearly enough to overcome Utah’s long-distance shooting spree that saw six different Jazz players drain multiple 3-pointers.

Joe Ingles, back from an Achilles injury, led the Jazz from deep with five 3s, Mitchell had four in his 28-point night, Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jordan Clarkson added four, Bojan Bogdanovic drilled three while Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang each dropped in a pair of triples in the 118-102 win.

Utah made 21 of 47 from 3-point range, marking the fourth time in six games the Jazz have landed 20 or more.

“We couldn’t stop them on anything,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said after Utah connected on 15 more 3-pointers than his squad, which hit 6 of 26. “Obviously what stands out is the 21 3s, but they also didn’t have any trouble getting to the rim. So, you know, they got whatever they wanted. We didn’t take anything away from them.”

If the Pelicans hope to reverse Tuesday’s outcome, they’ll have to do a better defensive job against a Jazz team that shot 50.6 percent overall, dished out 28 assists and outrebounded them 54-38.

Utah blew open a close game — the Jazz led 55-49 at halftime — with eight 3-pointers and a 36-20 scoring advantage in the third quarter.

“They continued to put the pressure on us, breaking us down on the defensive end with their driving and kicking in,” said Brandon Ingram, who was the only other New Orleans player in double figures (17 points). “That’s usually just how they play.”

Jazz coach Quin Snyder credited the defense for opening up the offense.

“Defending creates those shots,” Snyder said. “And defending keeps us in the game if they’re not going in.”

The Jazz’s current six-game winning streak began on Jan. 8 in Milwaukee. In that game, Utah made a franchise-record 25 3-pointers, which was just the 11th time an NBA team has made that many 3s in the regular season.

The Jazz set an NBA record in that game, too, becoming the first team to have five players make at least four 3-pointers in a game: O’Neale (six), Clarkson and Mike Conley (five each) and Bogdanovic and Mitchell (four each).

Overall, the Jazz are among the league leaders when it comes to relying on 3-pointers. Through 14 games, Utah is averaging 111.1 points a game with 40.1 percent of those points coming from 3-point territory.

–Field Level Media