Losses to Jazz expose some New Orleans Pelicans weaknesses

Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) stops New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Utah Jazz center Walker Kessler (24) stops New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Utah Jazz for the second straight game and dropped to 0-3 against them on the season, getting swept in the season series.

Two of the losses were in overtime, including last night and the Pels are now just 1-4 in overtime this season despite being one of the best clutch-time teams in the NBA.

The Jazz are a weird team, as they roll mostly with three seven footers (two of which are very good 3-point shooters) and two quick guards, so they are a tricky matchup for a lot of teams.

Last night was a game New Orleans probably should have won in regulation, as they were up by six late, but the Jazz had a few lucky bounces and took advantage of mismatches better than the Pelicans did.

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The Jazz have now accounted for 30 percent of the Pelicans’ losses on the season and exposed a few possible weaknesses for New Orleans.

The New Orleans Pelicans need to stay healthy

Let’s face it, had Brandon Ingram been in either of these last games, the Pelicans might have won both of them. He had scored 10 points in 10 minutes in the first meeting with the Jazz before getting injured and having to sit out four games.

The Pels have a very deep roster, but you can’t expect role players to carry you night after night, so it’s imperative that the Pelicans not only get Brandon Ingram back soon, but keep him in there for the rest of the season.

The Pelicans’ starting five has still only played together 10 times, and on some nights it won’t matter, but in close games, New Orleans needs BI, Zion and CJ to be in the lineup.

Clutch-time rebounding is a problem

The Pelicans went small during the last five minutes of regulation and all of overtime, running out a lineup of CJ, Herb Jones, Naji Marshall, Zion Williamson and Larry Nance Jr. This will work against a lot of teams, as Jones, Marshall and Nance Jr. are all versatile defenders who can guard up.

But against a team with three 7-footers in the lineup, the Pelicans were simply giving up too much size, which led to five late offensive rebounds, two of which ended in put backs for Walker Kessler.

This seemed like a tailor made matchup for Jonas Valanciunas, as Kessler is not quick and is the type of center Jonas usually dominates. I really like Valanciunas and he has been huge for the Pelicans at various times this season and last, but you have to wonder if he’s the right fit if he can’t be on the floor at all during clutch time of a game where the other team has three seven footers out there.

But the lack of big man wasn’t the only problem with the New Orleans Pelicans’ late in the game.

Switching everything on the pick-and-roll

I found myself screaming “STOP SWITCHING, FIGHT THROUGH THE PICK” about 75 times last night, as the Pelicans continually switched everything on the perimeter, leaving Zion Williamson to try and defend either Jordan Clarkson or Mike Conley Jr.

The Jazz guards then blew by the bigger defenders and set up their bigs, who were now being defended by guards. The Jazz did this literally every possession and just about every one led to an open shot for the guard or a lob or kick out to one of their bigs.

This was a game where the New Orleans Pelicans really missed Jose Alvarado, who would have been fighting through those screens and staying with the guard. But if the Pels are going to run these type of clutch-time lineups with no real point guard or center, teams are going to keep taking advantage of this.

Willie Green failed to make the adjustment late and the Pelicans withered in overtime of a game they probably should have closed out in regulation. These problems aren’t going to matter against a lot of teams, but Utah has shown some weaknesses the Pelicans have when they go small late in games.

A possible trade target for the Pelicans will be available soon. dark. Next