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New Orleans • Derrick Favors described it best.
For three quarters, the Utah Jazz answered every run by the New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz controlled star forward Anthony Davis. They made timely shots, and they put themselves in position to win their eighth consecutive game.
Only that win never came. Undone by turnovers, missed free throws and fatigue, the Jazz fell to the Pelicans 100-96 on Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center. In a game the Jazz led most of the way, New Orleans outscored Utah 29-19 in the fourth quarter.
"You know when the tank gets to empty and the red light comes on in the car? That's what happened," Favors said. "Guys just ran out of gas."
Utah's power forward was referring to his team playing the back end of a back-to-back, especially since Tuesday's win over the Dallas Mavericks went to overtime. The Jazz knew winning against New Orleans would be difficult.
Even so, the Pelicans played well enough to force Utah's first defeat in over two weeks, instead of the Jazz giving the game away. New Orleans guards Jrue Holiday, Toney Douglas, Alonzo Gee and Norris Cole figured ways to collapse Utah's defense off the dribble, consistently getting in the paint for easy shots. Defensively, they wreaked havoc by being physical with the Jazz ballhandlers, and throwing off the timing of Utah's offense. Eventually, the pressure became too much and the Jazz began making mistakes and turning the ball over.
"Jrue was tough against us," Utah forward Gordon Hayward said. "He was driving both ways, he was looking for his floater and going through all his cuts. I think we all tried to stay in front of him and make other people beat us. But tonight, he was pretty good."
Still the Jazz and the Pelicans were tied at 92 with 1:32 remaining, before the bottom fell out on Utah. It began when Hayward turned the ball over off a timeout. Then Davis got loose for a left-handed floater in the lane. Favors got fouled, and made one of two free throws. Then Davis, given space on the perimeter by Rudy Gobert, made the crucial shot, a 3-pointer with 35.7 seconds remaining.
Facing a 97-93 deficit, the Jazz had no choice but to play the foul game. Unfortunately for them, New Orleans hit its free throws, refusing to give Utah a chance to get back into the game.
"Obviously the 3-pointer was a shot that comes to mind," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "I think obviously last night took something out of us. New Orleans did a great job. I thought they were just a little more focused and a little more urgent. This is a hard place to come in and win. These guys are good at home."
Snyder said his team missed the ballhandling and playmaking of Trey Burke, who missed the trip due to the flu. It showed as New Orleans paid extra attention to Hayward and Rodney Hood, blitzing their pick and rolls and doubling them whenever possible.
Favors benefitted from the extra attention paid to the perimeter guys and responded with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Hayward scored 21 points, and Hood had 15. Still, the strategy worked, as Utah struggled to generate offense when it mattered the most.
Holiday led New Orleans with 21 points, while Davis scored 10 of his 19 in the fourth quarter.
"We're not going to let this loss hurt us," Hayward said. "It was a tough night, but overall we've been playing good basketball. Unfortunately the ball didn't fall our way tonight. But we're going to learn and get better from here."
R In a game that featured 19 ties and 14 lead changes, the Pelicans score 8 of the last 12 points to win.
• New Orleans uses a 16-7 run in the fourth quarter to rally after the Jazz took an 8-point lead.
• Utah closes the first half of the season with a 26-26 record and in eighth place in the Western Conference.