Don’t look now, but the New Orleans Pelicans are playing reasonably well at the moment. They’ve won three straight and have inexplicably become a pointspread covering machine taking home the bacon in six straight and 7 of their last 8. Dating back to the end of January they’ve covered 12 of their last 16 contests! This is a quick rematch from Monday night in Salt Lake City when the Pelicans caught the Jazz feeling a bit too good about their Saturday night win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pelicans won 115-112 as +9.5 road underdogs.
The Jazz are in a big pack of teams in the Western Conference looking to improve their playoff position. Utah is currently in 6th place in the West but are just 1/2 game up on the LA Clippers and 1 game up on the 8th place San Antonio Spurs. They do have a 4 game advantage over the 9th place Sacramento Kings so there’s a bit of ‘margin for error’ in making the postseason but the Jazz would love to move up a bit to get home court advantage in the early rounds. Currently, they’re 2.5 games back of the three teams tied for 3rd through 5th–Portland, Oklahoma City and Houston.
Utah has now failed to cover in 3 of their last 4 games but overall have been on a nice streak against the number. They’ve covered 7 of 10 overall but they’ve been doing a decent job on the road this year–not typically a Utah strong point. They’re 16-14-1 ATS away from Salt Lake City but their recent form is even better and they’ve covered 8 of their last 11 away games. The recent meetings between the Jazz and the Pelicans have favored the road teams. Utah has not only won and covered their last three trips to New Orleans but they’ve done it with relative ease winning by margins of 21, 17, and 24.
Despite their recent run of pointspread success we’re not at all sold on the dysfunctional Pelicans. It’s more a function of the marketplace overreacting to the general turmoil that exists in the franchise more than anything else. In retrospect, there was line value due to the public not wanting to touch the Pelicans. Anthony Davis has been benched during the fourth quarter in recent games as a way of protecting their ‘trade asset’ at least to some extent. The value is probably out of the Pelicans and the first game home after a road trip is a tough spot for any team–and particularly one that has such a toxic environment.
Handicapping 101 dictates that in a ‘quick rematch’ game the team that lost the first half of the series is almost always the play in the second game. The Jazz need this game while the Pelicans are playing out the string. Utah has had plenty of success here and have another good shot of winning on Friday night in Memphis before returning home for a tough game against Oklahoma City on Monday. We’ll go with the historical precedent and back the Jazz to win here.