Utah Jazz beat Pelicans 128-126 for sixth straight win

New Orleans • The Jazz, of course, are widely known as a team whose suspect defense frequently needs to be rescued by its incendiary offense.

Oh, right — that’s a fairly new development, though it was made apparent Monday night at the Smoothie King Center. They were efficient from 3. They got big production from their reserves. They were the more prolific team in transition.

And yet, in the end, it naturally came down to another big play by Rudy Gobert on the defensive end, as his block on Brandon Ingram at the buzzer sealed a 128-126 victory over the Pelicans.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 of his 35 points in the second half, as Utah claimed its sixth consecutive victory to improve to 24-12 on the season.

“Our ability to score points tonight put us in [good] position at the end,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And obviously, Rudy made a great play.”

That, actually, seemed like it was up for debate for a few curious moments.

The finish was a bit chaotic, as Ingram drove to the hoop, Gobert got a piece of it, and both players tumbled to the floor as the clock went to three red zeroes. The Jazz were convinced it was a clean play and a no-call and walked off the court; the Pelicans argued for a foul call and milled about, waiting for a definitive answer; and the referees huddled in discussion, went over to the monitor to review something, and at last declared the game over.

“I just went to contest the shot, I went straight up with my arms. I haven’t watched the replay yet, but … I hit the ball with my forearm, and then we both just fell,” Gobert said. “With the momentum, he pulled me down and we fell.”

Teammate Donovan Mitchell was even more emphatic that, in spite of the confusion, it ultimately was correctly decided.

“He blocked it. That’s why we ran off the court — he blocked it,” Mitchell said. “That’s the second time on this road trip that he’s done that. … I knew that Rudy was gonna meet him at the rim, and he got the block.”

After the game, referee Kane Fitzgerald told a pool reporter that “We felt during live play that Rudy played legal defense,” and that the play was reviewed for a potential clock malfunction. When it was deemed there was not one, the game was officially over.

The bizarre finish, of course, obscured the wild back-and-forth game that came before.

Early on, the Jazz could do little to contain New Orleans, which generated one open look after another in the opening period — racking up 36 points on 15-for-28 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

And though the Jazz allowed at least 28 points in every quarter, Snyder nevertheless felt as though his team’s defense improved as the game went on.

That, in combination with Bogdanovic’s scoring surge, proved enough.

“The second half, I thought, we were solid defensively, but they made some plays. The first half, we had a few breakdowns,” Snyder said. “But we were able to put some points on the board tonight. Different guys did it at different times; Bojan obviously carried us for a lot of it. We were talking about Bojan’s shooting slump earlier, right? … He finished tonight, and just was more poised around the rim, and his jump shot set that up.”

Bogdanovic did it in a variety of ways, too. During the third quarter, he went on a personal 7-0 run, first zipping to the rim for a layup; then hitting a bully-ball post-up turnaround over Lonzo Ball; and finally, curling off a screen and swishing a catch-and-shoot 3.

He deflected credit, saying that Snyder and Mitchell — who had six assists on a night he shot only 7 for 18 — were calling for him to keep utilizing the post-up.

Mitchell, meanwhile, was having none of that.

“He’s back. Obviously, it’s no secret he’s been through a little bit of a shooting slump, but he just continues to be the same,” he said. “He’s taking the same shots he’s been getting.”

The teams traded shots down the stretch, the Jazz matching the Pelicans at every turn. They wound up making 16 of 33 from deep. They poured in 40 bench points. They had an 18-8 advantage in fast-break points.

Still, the game was tied as late as with 1:26 to play, when former Jazzman Derrick Favors blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, and got the ball to Ingram, whose 3-pointer made it 126-all.

After that, Gobert — who had only nine points, but added 19 rebounds (he was not credited with a block for the game) — came through again. As the Jazz headed to the locker room, many of the players held their index and middle fingers aloft. Some interpreted it as a “peace sign,” as in, so long, we’re out of here. Mitchell clarified it meant the number two — as in two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

“The last game of every road trip is kind of a tricky game, so we were lucky to get a W. But Rudy was big once again in the last couple minutes, defensively,” Bogdanovic said.

And as for the subsequent controversy?

“We got the W. There’s not much to say.”