NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Ricky Rubio learned he wouldn’t have to worry about Anthony Davis guarding the paint for the Pelicans, the Jazz point guard figured he better look for Utah big-man Rudy Gobert at the rim whenever possible.
“I was looking more to that than anything else,” Rubio said, adding that when New Orleans’ defense collapsed on Gobert, he was able to take advantage of that as well.
Rubio had 28 points and 12 assists, Gobert had 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, and Utah became the first team this season to beat New Orleans, 132-111 on Saturday night.
“When Ricky plays like that, it’s hard to lose,” said Gobert, who had a handful of dunks set up by Rubio, several on alley-oop lobs. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can score and when Ricky starts to make the right play and puts even more pressure on the defense, it’s hard to guard for sure.”
Davis was ruled out shortly before the game because of his sprained right elbow — an injury through which he’d played in a victory a night earlier over Brooklyn.
“There’s not any long-term concern,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He came in today and tried to shoot at shoot-around, and there was a still a little bit of pain. … I’m not going to risk anything over one game.
The Davis-Gobert matchup has been a competitive and compelling one in recent seasons. With Davis out, Gobert had his best offensive game of the young season. He’d come in averaging 14.5 points and had not scored more than 19 points in a game this season.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder was quick to highlight the effect of Davis sitting out, noting the Pelicans’ five-time All-Star is “obviously one of the best players in the league, maybe playing the best of anyone in the league right now.”
“We did a good job of trying to attack them in a way that was effective, given his absence,” Snyder added.
Rubio was averaging just 6 points coming in and hadn’t scored more than 13 in a game.
“I’ve got to be more regular. Sometimes I’m not as aggressive as I was tonight,” Rubio said. “I felt my shot and kept shooting and we had a good night.”
It was perhaps fitting that a Frenchman and Spaniard would dominate in New Orleans — a city founded by the French and ruled by the Spanish during the early part of its 300-year history, and where Jazz music, as well as the NBA franchise named for it, were born.
Rubio has been brilliant in the Big Easy before. He scored 30 in a triumphant trip to New Orleans last March.
“I love playing here,” Rubio said.
Donovan Mitchell scored 22 for Utah.
Nikola Mirotic scored 25 points, but 15 of that came in the first quarter, when he hit three 3s and helped the Pelicans take a 31-28 lead into the second period. Jrue Holiday scored 18 points.
“Ricky and Gobert really got the whole lob situation going,” Holiday said. “Next time, I think we’ve got to do a better job at containing them.”
Jazz: Shot 52.3 percent (46 for 88) and combined for 10 3s on 32 attempts. … Attempted 37 foul shot, hitting 30. … Dante Exum scored 11 points, and Derrick Favors had 10.
Pelicans: Starting point guard Elfrid Payton left the game with a sprained right ankle early in the third quarter. … Reserve forward Darius Miller did not play after leaving Friday night’s game against Brooklyn with a thigh bruise. … Second-year pro Frank Jackson, a high-second-round draft pick in 2017 who sat out his rookie season with injuries, scored a career-high 14 points in 23 minutes. … Jahlil Okafor scored 11 points in 14 minutes. … New Orleans went 3-1 during its four-game home stand and now leaves for a nine-day, five-game road trip against Western Conference teams.
SEALING THE DEAL
Utah led by as many as 28 points in the third quarter and were still up 102-82 at the start of the fourth, when numerous fans began filing out en masse.
With a lineup of reserves finishing out the game, the Pelicans rallied to the point of re-engaging those fans who’d stuck around, pulling to 110-102 on Wesley Johnson’s 3 with 6:34 left. But Utah responded with a 10-2 run during which Rubio hit six free throws.
Jazz: Visit Dallas on Sunday night.
Pelicans: Visit Denver on Monday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports