The NBA makes its long awaited return on Thursday night as two games kick off the NBA restart. To open back up the matchups will be a game between the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are looking to sneak into the playoffs, while the Jazz are sitting comfortably in a playoff berth. This game will tip off at around 6:30 PM Eastern time.
The Jazz have earned a record of 41-23 throughout this season, which has them sitting in fourth place of the Western Conference. Utah is a game and a half behind the Denver Nuggets for the three seed and one game up on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. The Jazz won five of their last six games before the season came to a halt.
New Orleans has posted a record of 28-36 throughout this season, which has them in tenth place of the Western Conference. The Pelicans are battling it out at a chance to earn the eighth seed in the West. New Orleans is three and a half games back from the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Pelicans had won back to back games before the season pause.
Both of these teams are fighting for seeding in this pre playoff round. The Jazz have less at stake already having a playoff seed locked up, while New Orleans is one of the teams still in the hunt in the West. I expect both teams to come out fast to try and get an early run on their opponent as they try and set the standard for the return of the NBA.
The first matchup of the season series between the Jazz and the Pelicans was on November 23 in Utah. Brandon Ingram had 33 points, while Jrue Holiday put up 28, but it was not enough. Donovan Mitchell had 37 points and Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 28 points. The Jazz were able to sneak out with a solid 128-120 win over New Orleans.
The second game of the season series shifted to New Orleans on January 6. Brandon Ingram had another solid night, finishing with 35 points. J.J. Redick posted 23 points and Lonzo Ball had 21, but the Pelicans still fell short. Bojan Bogdanovic had 35 points, while Joe Ingles had another 22. The Jazz finished out the game with a 128-126 win.
The most recent game of the season series was on January 16 in New Orleans again. Donovan Mitchell went off for 46 points, while Bogdanovic had 26 points, but it was not enough for the Jazz. Brandon Ingram had 49 points on the night. Derrick Favors added 21 points and 11 rebounds. The Pelicans bench combined for 47 points to give New Orleans a 138-132 win at home.
All three games of this season series were tight, which led to an exciting season series. Despite these two teams’ difference in the standings, they seemed to match up well against each other. Brandon Ingram was an issue for the Jazz in the season series and they will look to slow him down. The Pelicans will need to contain Donovan Mitchell.
Field Goal Shooting
The Jazz were a top team at shooting from the field this season. Utah made 47.5 percent of their shots from the field, which was fourth best in the NBA. The Jazz had the best three point percentage in the league, making 38.3 percent of their shots from deep. Utah also made 53.7 percent of their shots inside the arc, which is fifth best.
New Orleans was around middle of the pack shooting this season, making 46.2 percent of their shots from the field. The Pelicans shot 37.2 percent from deep, which was fifth best in the league. New Orleans also made 52.5 percent of their shots from in close, which was a solid number.
The big difference in this game could be defense. The Jazz held opponents to the eleventh best shooting percentage from the field and had the eighth defense from inside the arc. Utah does not allow their opponents to get second chance points and clog up the lanes really well. If the Pelicans cannot penetrate this lethal defense, it could spell trouble for them early.
Utah saw a great season from Donovan Mitchell, who averaged around 24 points per game. Jordan Clarkson finished with 15.5 points per game. Rudy Gobert was averaging 15 points and 13.5 rebounds per game before the pause. Mike Conley averaged 14 points per game, while Joe Ingles was averaging 10 points per game.
Brandon Ingram had a great season for the Pelicans, averaging 24.5 points per game. Zion Williamson missed most of the season with injury, but averaged 23.5 points and 7 rebounds per game in his 19 appearances. Jrue Holiday averaged 19.5 points and 7 assists per game. J.J. Redick, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart have all averaged over 10 points per game throughout this season as well.
The Jazz are without Bojan Bogdanovic in this season’s restart, which will hurt their lineup. Bogdanovic was averaging 20 points per game this season. Utah will need someone like Joe Ingles to step up in his absence. The Jazz were the better team this season, but with Williamson in and Bogdanovic out, they will need some help to knock off the Pelicans.
The Jazz are coming into this game with the better record, but with some injuries swapping sides, the Pelicans have a good chance to pull away with a big win. Utah is fighting with quite a few teams to move anywhere from second to seventh. If Utah can get some help from their depth, it could help them knock off the Pelicans to open up the restart.
BetOnline has New Orleans listed as a -2 ½ against the spread in this one. The Pelicans have a solid team when healthy, but I am not sure they have proven enough to be favorites in this one. I believe that this game should be even lines for these two teams as they try and prove themselves early in the restart. With the Jazz being solid underdogs in this one, I think there is a lot of value on them.