SALT LAKE CITY — Just a day after, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder sat at a podium clearly unsatisfied with the way his team gave up a big lead, he wanted to make it clear: Saturday’s 128-120 over New Orleans at Vivint Arena was a good win.
Actually, it was a great one.
Would the coach have preferred his team not to have their 20-point halftime lead cut down to four in the closing minute? Of course. But considering the Jazz were without Rudy Gobert, and how the Pelicans were shooting the ball in the second half, he left Vivint Arena on Saturday night happy with his team’s performance.
“I thought we really competed and played together as a unit and played well enough to win against a very good team,” Snyder said. “And they've been playing really well, too. This was a heckuva a win for us.”
Snyder’s message: Not all blown leads are equal. On Friday, the Jazz almost coughed up a big advantage against the Warriors due to some lethargic play. On Saturday, the Pelicans just played well.
“Am I concerned if we build up leads and lose them? Absolutely,” Snyder said. “But tonight, I think you know, we built up a lead making shots and playing well and then I think the second half we were a little tired, but I still think we played well. And I think New Orleans made a lot of shots. ... I think tonight it was more about what they were doing. There wasn't really a let-up.”
Utah had its fastest start of the season. The Jazz made their first five baskets (four of which were 3-pointers) and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Before the first quarter was even halfway over, Donovan Mitchell had already scored 14 points — he finished the quarter with 16 of his season-high 37 points.
“It wasn't anything premeditated,” Mitchell said. “It was just me it's going through reading the defense and when you start to feel it, you start to keep going, but, yeah, sometimes you just gotta just go from the jump.”
Mitchell wasn’t the only one. Bojan Bogdanovic made 13 of his 28 points, and the Jazz scored 44 of their points, in the first quarter. The hot offensive start continued all the way to halftime when the Jazz took a 74-54 lead into the break.
“This was our best game offensively so far. every single player is playing with a high confidence,” Bogdanovic said. “We started the game really, really good.”
The Jazz shot 41.7% from three and had six players in double figures.
Before Saturday’s game, the Jazz announced Rudy Gobert would not be playing due to a left ankle sprain he suffered in Utah’s win the previous night.
With that news, there were some worries about how Utah’s defense would hold up against the uptempo Pelicans. And while the Jazz gave up 66 points in the second half, Snyder credited the Pelicans’ shot-making and the pace of the game for that more than the Jazz’s defense.
New Orleans cut the 20-point Jazz advantage to just seven points in the third quarter and to just four in the closing minute. A Mitchell midrange jumper with 49 seconds left and some clutch free throws in the closing seconds allowed Utah to hold on for the victory.
“They shot the ball well,” Snyder said. “I thought Brandon Ingram made some, some tough plays and tough shots. With the exception of fouling shooters a couple of times — which is always tough but that's a sign of guys being aggressive ... Jrue Holiday hit some really tough shots and they're a really good offensive team.”
Ingram had 33 points and Holiday added 28 for the Pelicans who hit 11 3-pointers in the second half.
Gobert’s absence gave Tony Bradley a chance to get back in the lineup and he performed admirably. In 22 minutes, Bradley had 14 points and nine rebounds. All his teammates came up to him in excitement after his block early in the fourth quarter.
“I think more than anything, Tony put himself in a place mentally, and his play reflected that,” Snyder said.