Coming into this game, the Pelicans had lost seven of their last 10 and they were set to host the league-best Utah Jazz, who had won 23 of their last 26 games.
Not to mention the fact that the Jazz are the only team in the league to rank in the Top 3 in both offensive and defensive rating, while New Orleans ranked 29th in the league on defence.
A guaranteed win for the Jazz, right? Seemed that way until the final seconds.
Pelicans hold on despite Jazz's furious late-game rally
With 3:54 remaining, the Pelicans led 122-108 and looked set to comfortably pull off the upset. But then, the Jazz rallied by going on a 16-3 run capped off by this Royce O'Neale 3-pointer.
Royce O'Neale drills it to bring the Jazz within 1!@utahjazz 124@PelicansNBA 125- NBA (@NBA) March 2, 2021
46.7 to play on NBA TV. pic.twitter.com/cfE47p7aco
Donovan Mitchell, who had struggled to shoot the ball efficiently through the first three quarters, scored or assisted on 10 points in the run. The Jazz defence came alive in the run as well, holding the Pelicans to 1-of-4 shooting from the field and forcing two turnovers whereas they let the hosts score 99 through three quarters including 40 in the third.
Despite the promising and threatening comeback, the Jazz eventually ran out of steam. After two free-throws from Zion Williamson, the Jazz were down three with 29.5 seconds to go.
Still within striking distance but the Pelicans came up with a crucial stop and extended the lead to five.
Zion rebound, Lonzo hit ahead, Josh Hart dunk to seal the @PelicansNBA W vs. Utah! #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/a5iSW2woY2- NBA (@NBA) March 2, 2021
Mitchell, who finished with 21 points and eight assists, was one of five Jazz players to finish in double figures. Bojan Bogdanovic finished with a game-high 31 points, knocking down seven 3-pointers, while Jordan Clarkson continued his strong play off the bench, finishing with 20 points and four assists in 26 minutes.
Zion leads 'old school' NOLA
The Jazz came into this one among the league leaders in 3-pointers made and attempted. However, New Orleans didn't duel with them. Instead, they played to their strengths.
The visitors knocked down 11 of 43 3-point attempts while the Pelicans made seven of their 11 attempts - the fewest by a winning team in the NBA in the last four seasons. A huge reason why the Pelicans could overcome the 3-point margin was their scoring in the paint.
Despite going up against two-time Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the league's best defender, especially in the paint, in Rudy Gobert, who finished this game with five blocks, New Orleans outscored Utah 74-56 in the paint.
Williamson scored all of his 12 third-quarter points, off field goals, in the paint.
Zion absolutely taking over in Q3. Just sit back and watch him work. pic.twitter.com/uTEtC8ncrl- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 2, 2021
The 74 paint points are the most against the Jazz in the last 25 years.
Williamson finished the game with a team-high 26 points (10-17 FGs) as six Pelicans finished in double figures. He also recorded 10 rebounds and five assists, with Lonzo Ball was the team's next biggest contributor with 23 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks while knocking down a tied team-high three 3-pointers.
Lonzo Ball shooting- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 2, 2021
Since February: 46/47/86%
He's averaging 14.8 PPG on 43/40/78% shooting this season, all career-highs. pic.twitter.com/GeXmUcMAEM
New Orleans will look to gain some momentum going into the All-Star break, hoping to win out their two remaining home games against the Chicago Bulls (Wednesday, ET) and Miami Heat (Thursday).
On the other hand, the Jazz, who are now 1-2 on their four-game road trip, will wrap-up their first-half schedule in Philadelphia in a couple of days.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.