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Mavericks Take Care of Shorthanded Pelicans

Sports

Mavericks' rookie Jaden Hardy was outstanding against the Pelicans. | Image by Forbes.

Luka Doncic had 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists for his ninth triple-double of the season as the Dallas Mavericks outpaced the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans 127-117 Saturday night at Americans Airlines Center.

Dallas raced to a 34-15 lead after one quarter, with Christian Wood, who added 28 points, taking charge early.

Wood scored nine of the Mavericks’ first 13 points. Doncic started slowly, then had the Mavericks’ final 11 points of the opening period to finish the quarter with 14 points.

The Pelicans — who have lost four of five — missed all nine three-point attempts and made just 6-of-26 (23.1%) field goal attempts in the first quarter.

New Orleans was without their top three players Saturday — Zion Williamson (right hamstring strain), Brandon Ingram (right toe contusion), and CJ McCollum (rest) — and on the second night of a back-to-back.

Doncic was listed on the pregame injury report with left ankle soreness but played. It did not seem to bother him as he registered his 55th career regular-season triple-double, which is fifth-most among active players.

Doncic clinched the triple-double by grabbing his 10th rebound with 2:06 remaining in the game and was then subbed out with 1:42 remaining and the Mavericks up 11 (121-110).

With Doncic on the bench, New Orleans whittled the Dallas lead down to six (123-117) in the last 33 seconds. But Mavericks reserves — Theo Pinson and McKinley Wright IV — hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the win. 

WHAT TO KNOW

Beating the Pelicans eases the sting of the Mavericks’ blowout loss to the Boston Celtics two nights earlier that snapped a seven-game win streak and greatly improves the Mavericks’ position in conference standings. 

The victory helps the fourth-place Mavericks (23-17) close the gap to one game behind the third-place Pelicans (24-16) in the Western Conference standings.

It also avenges a Dallas loss in the teams’ first matchup this season (October 25 in New Orleans). Then, the Pelicans beat Dallas by 2 points despite also being shorthanded, missing Williamson, Ingram, and lead defensive specialist Herb Jones.

That loss marked the first six Mavericks losses to teams playing without their best player. 

Williamson’s injuries in both matchups against Dallas this season have robbed fans of seeing two of the NBA’s young superstars going head-to-head for the first time since February 2020.

Doncic, the third pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and Williamson, the top pick in the 2019 draft, have taken the court against each other just three times in 13 meetings between their teams.

While Doncic’s triple-double and Wood’s scoring burst powered the Dallas win on Saturday, rookie Jaden Hardy’s performance thrilled fans the most. 

Hardy tied a career-high with 15 points (7 of 9 shooting) in 21 minutes. He flashed burst and the ability to get past defenders off the dribble and finish tough shots at the rim.

The 20-year-old Hardy has scored 15 points in consecutive games, shooting 70.6% from the field over the two games as he continues pushing to become a part of the regular rotation night in and night out. 

BY THE NUMBERS

The Mavericks have won eight of nine games.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18 points for Dallas on 7 of 9 shooting, including 4 of 6 from three. Dallas is 15-3 when Hardaway Jr. connects on three or more three-pointers in a game.

In addition to his 28 points, Wood added six rebounds and two blocks. The Mavericks are 8-3 when Wood records two or more blocks.

Over his last five games, Wood is averaging 21.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. 

With a contract that expires after this season, Wood is showing Dallas that he is deserving of a max contract extension. 

WHO SAID

Hardy was asked about his ability to get to the rim and finish, which he successfully did on Saturday.

“That’s just me staying true to my work and hours I put in the gym and sticking to it,” he said. “Doing the same thing I do in my workouts. Not being scared of anybody, just hoopin’. I’ve been doing this my whole life.”

Head coach Jason Kidd was asked which part of Hardy’s game has grown the most since his arrival in Dallas.

“Every part [of his game has grown],” Kidd said. “He’s improved in every area. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s learning what it means to be a pro. You can see the product on the floor in the sense that he’s not scared. He’s a young man surrounded by a megastar, and he feels like he fits right in. That’s kind of cool.”

NEXT UP

The Mavericks begin a five-game road trip with a game at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

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