Jazz try to start 2018 off on right foot vs. Pelicans




SALT LAKE CITY -- Surviving a rugged December slate wasn't easy for Utah.

The Jazz suffered a pair of three-game losing streaks and a four-game skid while enduring one of the NBA's toughest schedules during the month. Bright moments were scarce, with the team winning one-third of its December games.

Utah will get a chance to see if it can turn the corner and get back into the playoff picture when it hosts the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

"We learned a lot from this stretch of games in December about ourselves offensively and defensively," forward Derrick Favors said. "Hopefully, it can help us out going forward, especially going into January. Hopefully we can go on another win streak."

The Jazz (16-21) do carry some momentum into January after beating Cleveland 104-101 on Saturday.

Utah surged past the Cavaliers after halftime after holding them to 4-of-19 shooting in the third quarter. Cleveland missed 13 of its first 14 shots in the quarter, allowing the Jazz to open the quarter with a 23-3 run that put them ahead for good.

Utah didn't collapse when Cleveland rallied to within a point late in the fourth quarter. Donovan Mitchell hit a key basket in the final minute, part of his team-high 29 points, while Favors and Thabo Sefoloaha both made a pair of free throws in the final seconds.

It snapped a three-game skid for the Jazz and was only their third win in 13 games.

"We just fight," Mitchell said. "We don't give up and it's definitely a testament to our team's character."

New Orleans (18-18) hopes to recapture some of its fighting spirit in Salt Lake City. The Pelicans closed out December with a pair of losses to Dallas and New York.

In a 128-120 loss to the Mavericks, New Orleans allowed Dallas to set a franchise record with 22 made 3-pointers. The Mavericks ended up scoring a season-high in points.

The Pelicans followed it up with a fourth-quarter collapse in a 105-103 loss to the Knicks. New Orleans held an eight-point lead with 2:54 left, but mustered only four points down the stretch.

"No one is really excited about being .500 right now," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said at practice Monday. "We feel like we should obviously be a lot better than that. We still have an opportunity to run off some wins and have a situation where we end up with a really good record, but we're going to have to finish games."

New Orleans will, once again, count on DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis to dominate against the Jazz. The towering duo has posted at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in the same game 12 times this season. They have combined for 1,744 points and 768 rebounds through 36 games.

Cousins and Davis combined for 42 points and 23 rebounds on Dec. 1 in a 114-108 loss to Utah. The Pelicans led for three quarters, but could not hold on after Davis exited with a groin strain early in the fourth quarter.

Mitchell led Utah's comeback, scoring a career-high 41 points on 13-of-25 shooting. The first-year guard set a franchise record for most points scored in a game by a rookie.

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