SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Repeated slow starts and lackluster finishes compelled Rudy Gobert to question the competitive spirit of some Utah Jazz teammates. They responded with the fire expected from an NBA playoff team on Monday night.
Gobert had 20 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Jazz over the New Orleans Pelicans 108-100, a stark turnaround after a sluggish effort in a loss Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Gobert said after the loss to the Clippers that some of his teammates were not competitive enough. He apologized for his remarks during a team meeting prior to Monday’s shootaround.
Still, his message seemed to resonate with the Jazz.
“We could feel the energy tonight. Everybody was communicating,” Gobert said. “Everybody was active. They made a run in the third, but we stayed together. We worked. We outworked them and were able to get stops and buckets the other way.”
Rodney Hood scored 20 points, Joe Ingles added 19 and George Hill chipped in with 17 as that Jazz trio combined to make a dozen 3-pointers. Utah (45-29) swept the season series 3-0 after dominating from the perimeter for four quarters.
Anthony Davis had 36 points and 17 rebounds for New Orleans, which played again without injured center DeMarcus Cousins. Jrue Holiday scored 19, but the Pelicans (31-43) lost for only the third time in nine games.
New Orleans got no closer than six in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans cut the deficit to 102-96 on a 3-pointer by Davis, but Utah answered with a jumper from Joe Johnson and a 3 from Hood in the final minute.
“They made some tough shots down the stretch,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “Every time they got separation, we found a way to get ourselves back in it. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Gobert and Davis took turns dominating during the first half.
The first quarter belonged to Gobert. He totaled six points, six rebounds and four blocks, and the Jazz did not let those efforts go to waste.
Utah used a 9-0 run to open a 24-15 lead, and in the second quarter, Utah used a 13-0 run to take its largest lead. Hood punctuated the spurt with back-to-back 3-pointers, putting the Jazz ahead 39-21.
“We started off slow on defense and they got too many easy looks under the basket and open 3s,” Davis said.
Davis took over after that. He scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the second quarter alone. The Pelicans center scored 10 straight points to help fuel a 12-2 run that trimmed the lead back to single digits. His final basket in the quarter sliced Utah’s lead to 54-51 with 1:17 remaining before halftime.
The Pelicans finally went ahead 61-59 on a tip-in basket from Solomon Hill in the third quarter.
Hill gave the Jazz the lead again on a 3-pointer and it marked just the beginning of a barrage from the perimeter. Ingles and Johnson buried back-to-back 3s to fuel a 10-0 run, which Gobert punctuated with a hammer dunk to give Utah a 78-65 lead.
The Jazz are now 1 1/2 games ahead of the L.A. Clippers for the 4th spot in the Western Conference and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Utah next plays at Sacramento Wednesday night.