New Orleans • For the Utah Jazz, the path to a sixth consecutive win, a 133-109 demolishing of the New Orleans Pelicans, had nothing to do with tactics on Monday night.
Instead, it had everything to do with playing hard.
The Jazz for much of the season have been one of the worst third-quarter teams in the NBA. Those 12 minutes simply haven’t worked for them.
So, with a 70-64 lead at halftime, and well after coach Quin Snyder made his chalkboard adjustments, the players talked among themselves before taking the court for the second half.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons this year, and our play in the third quarter has been a big one for us to have to learn,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said. “We wanted to come out and play as hard as possible. It’s all about trying to get better as the season goes on.”
A 24 point win over New Orleans wouldn’t have been possible without Utah’s second half. The Jazz began the third quarter on a 14-4 run. They built as much as a 26-point lead down the stretch. All told, Utah outscored the Pelicans 63-45 in the second half. And by the time the buzzer sounded on its 25th win of the season, the seats in Smoothie King Center were a virtual ghost town.
This team is simply playing its best basketball of the season, dominant basketball where the Jazz are steamrolling their opponents.
They’ve scored at least 120 points in four consecutive games, just the third time in franchise history and the first time since 1984 that has been accomplished. Their 133 points are the most the Jazz have scored in a game since 2014. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and their net rating of 10.9 is the best in the NBA during that span.
The formula has been simple. With Gobert back in the lineup, the Jazz once again have one of the best defenses in the league. And the offense has been sensational, coinciding with point guard Ricky Rubio’s sudden and dramatic improvement.
“It’s a process,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve gotten healthy, and guys are playing well and they are playing for each other. The ball is moving offensively and guys are finding each other. We had a lead, and then (Rajon) Rondo got hot there and hit some shots. But we played well defensively in the second half. And when guys are defending like that, it helps the offense.”
Utah was efficient all game. The Jazz shot almost 59 percent from the field, and went 14 of 21 from 3-point range. The Jazz won the rebounding battle 45-30. They handed out 29 assists and turned the ball over just 13 times.
Shooting guard Rodney Hood had his best game in quite awhile, scoring 30 points on 12-of-14 shooting, while grabbing three rebounds and handing out three assists. He did a bit of everything, from hitting 3-pointers, to getting into the lane for floaters and even driving the paint for a resounding dunk.
As has been the norm, the Jazz received contributions from a number of sources. Gobert scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Derrick Favors had 19 points and seven rebounds. Rubio was dominant, scoring 20 points, and handing out 11 assists. Joe Ingles scored 18 points, and Royce O’Neale scored 13 points off the bench.
As a result, the Jazz took a lead in the opening minutes and never relinquished it. They are now 25-28 on the season and making a run at the top eight in the Western Conference. More importantly, Utah takes a 2-1 lead over the Pelicans in the season series between the two teams. The tiebreaker could be important down the stretch.
“We were in the coverage that the coaches told us to be in,” New Orleans star forward Anthony Davis said. “They shot the ball very well. There’s nothing we can do about it when all those guys are making 3’s. At one point, they were 10 of 11 in the first half from 3. We just have to keep fighting and staying with it. Over the course of the game, trust what the game-plan is and continue on.”