The Utah Jazz will be reunited with former fan favorite Derrick Favors as they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night.
The Utah Jazz are currently riding an incredible hot streak that has featured two separate win streaks of five games, separated only by a narrow loss to the Miami Heat on the road. In those 10 wins in 11 tries, the Jazz have looked much more like the team they were projected to be coming into the season, which is a very reassuring sign for what they can still accomplish.
However, their upcoming task won’t be an easy one, as they’ll next head down to New Orleans to take on former Jazzman Derrick Favors and the New Orleans Pelicans. Struck by a cataclysmic number of early injuries, including to Favors himself as well as to number one overall draft pick Zion Williamson, the Pelicans got off to an abysmal start. But they’ve been far better of late as they’ve won five out of their last six contests.
That still puts them at just 12-24 on the season, the second-worst record in the West, but due to how much the bottom half of the conference has struggled, the Pels also remain just three games behind the eighth-place Portland Trail Blazers. In other words, with some continued hot play and the eventual return of Zion, this Pelicans team could very well be a squad on the rise and certainly can’t be overlooked.
Their improvement in play has correlated almost directly with the return of Derrick Favors who after initially missing time due to injury, later missed a significant chunk of the season due to the unexpected passing of his mother. As Jazz fans know well, Favors is an incredible person and had a close relationship with his mom, so this was a tragic turn of events to see him go through.
Nevertheless, he’s been sensational since returning to action. In the Pelicans’ last six games, five of which have been victories, Favs is averaging 11.7 points and a whopping 13.7 rebounds to go along with three assists, 57.4 percent shooting from the field and an incredible plus/minus of plus-10. His return has breathed new life into this Pelicans squad which, combined with his familiarity with the Jazz, should result in a challenging matchup for the visiting Utah squad.
Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Georges Niang and others recently commented on how great of a teammate Favors was and how excited they are to see him. No doubt this will be an emotional matchup because of that reunion, but it remains nevertheless an important one wherein the Jazz need to stay focused and come away victorious. The Pelicans are on a hot streak and are far better than they were earlier in the year, but they’re still inferior to the Jazz, who need to take care of business.
Tip-off: 6:00 PM MT on January 6, 2020 from the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network (97.5 FM & 1280 AM Salt Lake City)
Projected Starting Lineups
|Utah Jazz||Position||New Orleans Pelicans|
|Rudy Gobert||C||Derrick Favors|
|Royce O’Neale||PF||Brandon Ingram|
|Bojan Bogdanovic||SF||J.J. Redick|
|Joe Ingles||SG||Lonzo Ball|
|Donovan Mitchell||PG||Jrue Holiday|
The Utah Jazz remain without Mike Conley as he deals with his ongoing hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans, of course, are still awaiting the debut of Zion Williamson, who had to undergo surgery on his knee during the NBA preseason. Darius Miller is also out after undergoing Achilles surgery and Nicolo Melli is considered day-to-day.
I thought the Jazz would struggle more than they did against the Orlando Magic, so it was good to see them run away with a win. This battle in New Orleans feels like yet another potential trap game, though. As good as it will be to see and play against Derrick, the Jazz can’t let their emotions get in the way. They’re also on the final game of a travel-heavy road trip, so fatigue could play a role in this one.
With so many factors in play, I could see this one going either way. The Action Network has the Jazz as mere two-point favorites, which further illustrates how closely contested this one is bound to be. When all is said and done, I think the Jazz will find a way to prevail, though, as they have so often this season. I’m going Jazz 104, Pelicans 98.
#UTAatNOP is the Twitter hashtag for the game and our live comment thread below will be up and rolling throughout the game as well. Go Jazz!