NEW ORLEANS — Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, things weren’t looking good for the Utah Jazz.
New Orleans Pelicans big men Anthony Davis and Emeka Okafor were feasting in the paint, as Jazz players didn’t seem engaged defensively.
Okafor snagged a defensive rebound then ran the full length of the court for a two-handed dunk as the Jazz trailed 57-66 with 4:59 left in the third.
But then the flip switched.
A driving layup by Donovan Mitchell led to 15 third-quarter points.
There was a jumper here, a hanging reverse shot there, a driving dunk and an array of other finishes as the rookie guard posted 25 of his 27 points in the second half to help the Jazz beat the Pelicans, 116-99.
“The good thing about having teammates like this is Joe (Ingles) and Ricky (Rubio) just telling me to keep being aggressive and just keep going,” said Mitchell, who posted 18 straight points at one point. “In the second half, you get down, your mindset starts changing a little bit and we all understood as a team how much this game meant.
“Obviously we felt the atmosphere and the vibes, so we came out and tried to compete in the second half even though we were down.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Donovan Mitchell put the team on his back during that third-quarter stretch. pic.twitter.com/26GItCNicw— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 11, 2018
Utah has now won six consecutive games, 11 straight on the road and 18 of their last 20 overall games while fighting for a playoff spot in the Wild Wild Western Conference.
Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio was also spectacular with 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. It was Rubio’s fourth career 30-point night.
“I think when you think about Ricky over the course of the season and the progress he’s made as far as his comfort level before All-Star break and that two or three game period where he was out, you wonder if it’s going to affect his rhythm,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “He got back into it. He almost got a triple-double. We’ve talked about guard rebounding. When he rebounds like that it allows us to get out and get some easy stuff and take some pressure off our offense.”
Jazz center Rudy Gobert added 19 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks while matching up against Davis on his 25th birthday.
Davis posted his first career triple double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks but didn’t score a single bucket in the fourth, going 0-for-2.
Utah shot just 41.7 percent from the field, but also held New Orleans to 44.1 percent as a team on the night.
“Focus. I think in the start of the game we were making a lot of mistakes that we do not usually make,” Gobert said. “You know, giving up little drives, miscommunication and stupid fouls. We got a timeout in the third and we just said, ‘Let’s go, let’s play our game, let’s be who we are.’… and we did. We got right back in the game and kept attacking and made a stop.”
Ingles recorded 20 points and five assists with three treys in Utah’s third victory against the Pelicans this season. Utah out-rebounded New Orleans 55-38.
“They’re a top-five offensive rebounding team,” Davis said. “Derrick Favors, Gobert, wings can get in there sometimes and their guards can get in there.”
The Jazz (37-30) will return home to face the Detroit Pistons at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Vivint Arena. Winning is the only thing on their mind, and on this night in New Orleans, Mitchell happened to boost the squad offensively for the second half. It could be another guy on another night.
“It was a burst. He put us on his back for that stretch and I think he gives our bench confidence,” Snyder said of Mitchell’s third quarter. “Joe (Ingles), Ricky (Rubio), and Donovan tonight, on the perimeter, were terrific. Rudy (Gobert)’s play, on the defensive end, was unbelievable.”