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Utah Jazz jump out quickly, hold off New Orleans Pelicans

By John Coon, The Sports Xchange
Utah Jazz jump out quickly, hold off New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI | License Photo

March 7 (UPI) -- SALT LAKE CITY -- Everything clicked on offense for Utah through one quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans. Then the shots suddenly stopped falling, and the Jazz had to lean on their defense to get through the remaining three quarters.

Surviving a grind-it-out contest is becoming second nature for the Jazz, who led wire-to-wire in an 88-83 victory over the Pelicans on Monday night.

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Utah set the tone in the first quarter by holding New Orleans to 14 points -- a season low for a Jazz opponent in an opening quarter.

"That was our focus coming into the game," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "We basically told (our players), 'You're not allowed to be tired until after the game.' We didn't feel like (Sunday) night, defensively, we were where we needed to be. Our focus was there."

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The Jazz were coming off an overtime win at Sacramento on Sunday.

Gordon Hayward made the defensive effort stand up against New Orleans, producing 23 points and seven rebounds. Rudy Gobert added 15 points and 15 rebounds for his 44th double-double of the season. Joe Ingles chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Jazz.

Utah (40-24) notched its third consecutive victory.

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"We just had to (win)," Ingles said. "It's part of the schedule. You got to do it. They were on a back-to-back as well. It obviously makes it a little tougher, but happy to come out with a win."

Anthony Davis scored 20 points and collected 12 rebounds to lead the Pelicans. Jordan Crawford added 19 points in his New Orleans debut, and DeMarcus Cousins chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds. New Orleans (25-39) lost for the fifth time in seven games.

The Pelicans shot just 11 of 41 (26.8 percent) from the field before halftime and coughed up six turnovers in the first quarter alone. That opened the door for the Jazz to construct a big lead early.

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"I don't know the reason, we're just not making shots," Davis said. "Guys are in the gym every day practicing those shots and making those shots. But it's not disrupting everything else we're doing. Of course, it helps to make them. Whoever's shooting -- if they're open -- we tell them to keep shooting. That's the only way that it's going to help our offense is to continue to shoot the basketball. We just got to knock them down."

Utah soared on offense in the first quarter while grounding the Pelicans with tough defense. The Jazz jumped out to a 10-2 lead behind a layup and trio of free throws from Gobert. After the Pelicans trimmed their deficit to 14-10 on back-to-back 3-pointers from E'Twaun Moore and Cousins, Utah responded with a flurry of baskets to bury the visitors again.

Starting with an alley-oop layup from Hayward, the Jazz scored on five straight possessions to go up 24-12. Ingles finished off the run with his first 3-pointer of the night. Utah extended the lead to 34-16 early in the second quarter after Rodney Hood drained a 3-pointer and Raul Neto followed with a steal and layup.

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New Orleans struggled to properly respond until the hole was too deep.

"We did get the ball to the basket," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "We didn't finish. When they're clogging the lanes, you got to swing the ball and make jump shots. That's how you get them out of the lane. We didn't make them, and they continued to do it."

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Tim Frazier and Crawford helped ignite a 12-2 New Orleans run that cut Utah's lead to 36-28 with 5:17 left before halftime.

Both teams struggled with missed shots and turnovers in the third quarter. The Jazz and the Pelicans combined for 11 turnovers in the quarter, and both shot under 40 percent from the field, preventing Utah from extending its lead or New Orleans from closing the gap until well into the fourth quarter.

The Pelicans' offense came to life in the fourth behind Crawford. He made jumpers on three consecutive possessions to cut Utah's lead to 72-69 with 5:09 remaining.

Crawford totaled 14 points in the final quarter alone a day after signing a 10-day contract with New Orleans and returning to the NBA for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

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"I was happy I got to play period," Crawford said. "I was just happy to get out there. That was the funnest part about it."

Utah answered with 3-pointers from Ingles and Hayward to keep New Orleans from erasing its deficit altogether. Then Gobert scored on a tip-in basket and Hood stole the ball and fed Ingles for a layup to put the Jazz up 83-73 with 1:51 left.

NOTES: G George Hill (toe soreness), F Joe Johnson (groin strain) and G Shelvin Mack (ankle sprain) did not play for the Jazz. ... Pelicans C Omer Asik missed his seventh game in a row because of an illness. ... Utah G Alec Burks pulled down a season-high eight rebounds -- all in the first half. ... New Orleans F Anthony Davis and C DeMarcus Cousins could become the first teammates to each average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game since Tim Duncan and David Robinson did it in the 1997-98 season. ... Utah outscored New Orleans 20-8 in the paint in the first half, 34-28 overall.

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