The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans faced off Thursday for the second time in three nights. Utah came out victorious in the prior matchup and was riding an NBA best six-game winning streak, and it seems like my underrated claim is off to a good start. Meanwhile, the Pelicans had lost six of their last seven games and were desperate to get back in the win column.
New Orleans came out firing in the first quarter with a faster pace of play and barrage of three-point shots. Brandon Ingram scored 16 of his team’s first 28 points, and the Pelicans shot 73% from downtown in the opening quarter, going 8-for-11 from three.
The Jazz ended the period down by just 12 thanks to the play of Donovan Mitchell.
He scored 13 of his team’s first 15 points while shooting very efficiently from the field. Despite this, the Pelicans led by as much as 16 in the second quarter, until the Jazz went on a 20 to 6 run to cut the lead to just two points. Utah was averaging just 19 free throw attempts per game before Thursday’s contest but went 14-for-14 from the line before the second period had ended.
Utah consistently got to the line during their scoring run, and their defensive switch to a 3-2 zone allowed them to clamp down on the defensive end and significantly cut their previous deficit.
The Jazz managed to take the lead before halftime thanks to an 8-0 run to go up on the Pelicans 70-69. These point totals were a season-high in any half for both teams.
Mitchell ended the half with 21 points while Ingram put up 20. Both were season highs for points in a first half for each player, respectively.
Second Half Highlights
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Mitchell hit his fifth straight 3-pointer and set an NBA record. He became the fastest player to hit 600 3-point shots, beating Buddy Hield’s former record by four games.
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) January 22, 2021
Utah’s largest lead of the quarter was 16 points. New Orleans head coach, Stan Van Gundy, received two technical fouls in the third period after disputing multiple calls made by the game’s officials. Despite Van Gundy getting ejected from the game, the Pelicans were able to close out the quarter on a scoring run and cut the deficit to eight points.
But, the Jazz were able to hold off any chance of a Pelicans comeback in the fourth quarter and kept a comfortable lead down the stretch. Utah won the game 129 to 118 to secure their seventh straight win, which was the longest winning streak for any team so far this season. This win gave them the second-best record in the NBA at the time of the game’s conclusion.
Donovan Mitchell’s Postgame Interview with Shaq
Mitchell finished the game with a season-high 36 points. However, the hottest topic of conversation after the game wasn’t related to Mitchell’s on-court performance.
During Mitchell’s postgame interview with TNT’s Inside the NBA crew, Shaquille O’Neal said he doesn’t think Mitchell has what it takes to reach superstar status. Mitchell’s response? “Aight.”
A) Would the NFL ever ever ever ever stand for this from its broadcasters?
B) You can see how little DM respects Shaq… much of the league feels the same way https://t.co/hnHSTnfMjt
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) January 22, 2021
Shaq still proceeded to take another shot at the Jazz when he told Mitchell to “tell Rudy (Gobert) to let me hold some of that $200 million he got.” This comes less than a month after Shaq expressed disbelief over Gobert’s $205 million contract extension with the team.
The post-game interview quickly caught fire and made its way across social media, prompting some notable reactions.
Perhaps none were bigger than the indirect responses from Kevin Durant and LeBron James via Instagram.
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are sick of the oldheads.https://t.co/JoyA6pcasC
— HotNewHipHop (@HotNewHipHop) January 23, 2021
Durant said, “Them old heads need to go enjoy retirement. These boys have coaches they work with everyday lol.”
James had this to say. “There’s a difference between constructive criticism and soft hating though. I’ve seen it both ways come my way, mostly the hate. You can hear it in their delivery.”
Regardless of Shaq’s doubts, Mitchell and the Jazz will look to continue their hot start for the remainder of the season.