As a season of ups and downs draws to it conclusion, the New Orleans Pelicans had plenty going against them Friday. Despite missing several key players, including Anthony Davis, they dug deep to sneak away with a close 102-95 victory over the visiting Utah Jazz.
Already missing Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith and Brian Roberts, the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis to an ankle injury just minutes into Friday's contest. New Orleans found enough within itself to make the plays down the stretch to get the win. A make-shift lineup was able to find solid scoring opportunities, while making the necessary defensive stops in the second half.
The result was another loss for the Jazz, who are licking their wounds from the past month of basketball. While the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings also fell, the defeat keeps Utah with the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
Another defensive struggle: Utah was solid offensively, shooting 48.5 percent from the field. It was on the other end of the court where it encountered the most difficulties. New Orleans’ missing sestet of players average a combined 90.4 points per outing. Still, the Pelicans were able to score without much issue.
With five players reaching double figures, led by guards Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow (22 and 20 points, respectively), New Orleans made the most of its opportunities in a rather modest-paced outing. It connected on 36 of 71 shots (50.7 percent), while hitting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc. Utah seemed a step slow on defense throughout. There were chances, but the Jazz offered little resistance and the Pelicans took advantage.
Bench performance: Given the injuries, New Orleans is playing a rotation of players who have been thrust into unfamiliar roles. Its bench, for instance, features two players who started this season overseas. While things were not pretty, each of the Pelican reserves had their moments Friday.
Darius Miller and Austin Rivers each put up 12 points and rookie Jeff Withey used his size solidly inside. Alexis Ajinca was big in Davis’ absence, as the French center tallied nine points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Last but not least, former Portland first-round pick Luke Babbitt chipped in nine points.
The New Orleans bench outscored its counterparts 45-28.
— Pelicans big man Greg Stiemsma fouled out in just 19 minutes.
— Utah head coach Tyrone Corbin incorporated a small line-up in the second half, featuring Jeremy Evans as the center.
— The teams committed a combined 53 fouls, resulting in 59 free throws.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.