By Mark Milligan Jr
Oct 26, 2018
To be a fan of the Utah Jazz is to be frustrated with the consistent undervaluing of the team by the rest of the league. No matter how many times the nation is surprised at the “unforeseen” success of the Jazz, fans of other teams around the league will never fail to underestimate them again the following season. We know how good our team is, but no one else ever sees us coming.
The same might be said for the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Everyone knows the authority that is Anthony Davis and the will that he imposes, yet most forecasts (that I’ve seen anyway) have the Pelicans only barely making the playoffs if they make them at all. Mark my words now, the Pelicans will outperform the league’s expectations. As of this writing, they are yet undefeated (including a win against the Rockets in Houston) with a home game against Brooklyn tonight. My guess is that the Jazz will be facing an undefeated team on their own turf come Saturday.
Battle of the Bigs
This game will definitely be a battle of Goliaths. With Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle rotating their front court, they have both size and shooting from out of the gate that simply does. not. let. up. for 48 minutes. Those three guys alone make up for 77 points per game! Slowing down their bigs from both inside and out will be key to getting the win.
Luckily, Utah isn’t lacking at those positions either. With the bulk of the big-man rotation being shared by Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert, the bigs will be where the trenches of the battle take place. So as flashy as Donovan Mitchell can be, keep an eye on those big-man matchups.
It’s not just about our defense stopping their offense, either. Rudy Gobert is increasingly becoming key to Utah’s new offensive focus. With guys like Rubio and Exum throwing it up high where only a rolling Gobert can get it, the offense has a new consistant weapon necessary for keeping defenses honest and getting their defenders to shrink back down under the basket, giving space to shooters like Ingles and Mitchell. However, AD allows people to score on him about as often as he lets a barber pluck his proud brow.
The point is, Davis is difficult on both ends of the floor, averaging 3.3 blocks per game so far this season and on par with years prior. But Gobert is too prideful to think he can be stopped by anyone, including AD, and that’s a good thing. Both centers will be imposing their wills to elite levels, which will make it all that much sweeter when Gobert proves his dominance to the league again.
Point of Attack
Although their biggest strength lies with their front court, it’s not the only weapon New Orleans has. Jrue Holiday and Elfrid Payton split time playing quarterback with stingy defense. Holiday is averaging 9 assists and 2.3 steals per game to start the season. Payton improved over the offseason after losing 7 pounds of bangs (give or take a pound). He has started the season averaging 7.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. These two are where the offense begins, so it will be up to Rubio and Mitchell to jam them up and make them uncomfortable. Pressuring them into hurried passes can turn a Mirotic 3-pointer into a fast-break layup going the other way.
No one in the league is safe from the Utah Jazz, but then again, no one is safe from New Orleans either. Both teams are capable of defeating any opponent on any given night, including each other. On Saturday evening, there simply won’t be enough room for all that big-man pride and talent. Be sure to watch to see who comes out on top!
*All stats via FoxSports.com unless otherwise noted
*Featured images via Fansided & UpRoxx.com