The start of Saturday’s game between the Jazz and Pelicans was delayed about five minutes because the shot clock on the basket by the New Orleans bench was not operating. To make matters worse, apparently the guy responsible for fixing it couldn’t find his toolbox anywhere.
Once the game got underway, Utah’s offense functioned as smoothly as it has all season in the first half, ground nearly to a halt for much of the second, then sputtered back to life in the final minutes, as the tired-legged Jazz held on for a 128-120 victory.
The win is Utah’s third in a row, and improves the team’s record to 11-5 in advance of an upcoming season-long five-game road trip.
Donovan Mitchell scored 24 of his 37 points before halftime, while Bojan Bogdanovic also registered 20 of his 28 in the opening two quarters. As a result, the team ran out to a 14-0 lead and racked up a season-high 74 first-half points in building a 20-point advantage.
“We did a great job overall, especially in the first half. … I think this is our best game offensively so far,” Bogdanovic said. “Every single player is playing with high confidence. We started the game really good — that 14-0 run, that helped us to get our energy back.”
Of course, that energy level was hard to maintain. For one thing, the Pelicans were constantly pushing the pace. For another, Utah grew weary as the game went on — the result of the depth being impacted by Rudy Gobert sitting out with a sprained left ankle, not to mention having had to fend off the Warriors on Friday, a night that culminated with the evacuation of the arena due to the presence of a “suspicious package” that turned out to be simply a misplaced toolbox.
As a result, coach Quin Snyder said he was making it a point to keep tabs on players and make timely substitutions.
“The way New Orleans plays puts a lot of pressure on you. We subbed a variety of ways in the second half to try to have guys in some shorter stints. We felt that was important,” Snyder said. “We told guys, ‘Let us know when you’re tired and we’ll get somebody else in.’ Just a next-man-up type of mentality.”
While Gobert’s absence had a definite impact on the Jazz’s defense, especially late — Brandon Ingram’s 33 points and Jrue Holiday’s 28 led a furious Pelicans comeback in the second half — his replacement helped make up some of the slack.
Third-year center Tony Bradley made his first career start and acquitted himself well, hitting 7 of 8 shots in totaling 14 points, nine rebounds, and a block in 22 foul-plagued minutes.
He was typically low-key about it afterward (“All I’m thinking is, ‘play hard, try to rebound, run the floor, and defend as best I can.’ That’s all.”), but his teammates weren’t letting him off the hook that easily.
As the media interviewed Bradley at his locker postgame, Royce O’Neale hovered nearby, Georges Niang shouted encouragement, and Gobert himself joined the scrum, grabbed a mic, and asked a question (for the record: “Hey Tone, how did you feel out there tonight?”).
When Bradley was subsequently asked in jest if he was ready to now challenge Gobert for the starting spot, he sheepishly responded, “No comment.” When a follow-up query suggested he and Gobert could be the new Tim Duncan and David Robinson, he shook his head and opined, “I don’t know how to answer all these questions, man!”
The Jazz certainly had to find some answers as the second half progressed.
New Orleans’ high-octane offense started to wear the team down, and halved the Pels’ deficit heading into the final quarter.
On several occasions in the final minutes, the Pelicans crawled within seven — only for the Jazz to answer back. A Mike Conley-to-Bogdanovic alley-oop here, a Conley 3-pointer there, and plenty of trips to the foul line besides.
Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay added 15 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
And in the end, despite being short-handed, despite being tired, despite the offense slowing down, it proved to be enough.
“We were aggressive shooting the ball. Guys were locked in. When they had opportunities — maybe you’re not as open as you’d like to be, but you’re open enough to get a good look off and be on-balance,” Snyder said. “I thought we were taking good shots and shooting the ball with confidence, and really playing for each other.”