Despite coming into tonight’s contest just one and a half games outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, the Jazz seemed content to start the game at their usual slow pace. Falling behind by seven points early in the first quarter, Utah failed to exhibit any sense of urgency. Although the Jazz eventually came back to tie the game at 47 heading into the halftime break, the team allowed the ordinarily hapless Hornets to shoot a blistering 61% through the first two quarters.
The trend continued in the second half as the Hornets finished the game shooting 55% from the field while holding the Jazz’s offense to 14 points below their season average.
“It was just a difficult night overall …. We had a great win last [game] and a tough loss tonight,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ve got to get this [loss] back tomorrow night … we’re going to need everyone tomorrow night against Memphis.”
Playing just his sixth game all season, oft-injured shooting guard Eric Gordon showed the New Orleans Arena faithful a glimpse of why the organization traded for him in the offseason. Constantly beating his defenders at the point of attack, Gordon carved up the Jazz defense on his way to a team-high 25 points and six assists. The Jazz simply had no answer for Gordon. In fact, at one point near the end of the game, after Gordon had effectively embarrassed nearly every Jazz perimeter defender, in an act of desperation, Coach Ty Corbin assigned the unenviable task of guarding Gordon to starting power forward Paul Millsap.
“He is who he is, the guy’s a good one-on-one player,” said Coach Corbin of Eric Gordon. “We tried to trap him early on …. We tried to throw him off a little bit by attacking him, but he made some plays and we just didn’t respond.”
After coming back to pull ahead of the Hornets in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Jazz simply fell apart down the stretch. In the closing minutes of the game, the Hornets went on a 14-0 scoring run while holding the Jazz to just 15 fourth-quarter points.
“[The Hornets] hit some big shots down the stretch; they scored and we didn’t,” said Paul Millsap of the Jazz’s uncharacteristically inefficient fourth quarter.
A game-time decision with a severely strained right shooting hand, Millsap played and had an exceptionally efficient night. Millsap scored a game-high 27 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot.
“[Millsap] was great again tonight,” said Corbin. “He had 16 points in the first quarter and came out focused and ready to play. We played him again at the three spot … and he did a good job of getting up in guys and just playing. That’s who he is. He’s going to give you everything he has every night he steps on the floor.”
Millsap combined with Al Jefferson (19) to score 46 of the Jazz’s total points. Derrick Favors had a nice night off the bench with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The Jazz will look to get back in the playoff hunt tomorrow night against the Memphis Grizzlies.