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Slow Start Dooms Mavericks Against Short-Handed Pelicans

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Dallas Mavericks lose to New Orleans Pelicans | Image by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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The Dallas Mavericks dropped a close 113-111 game to the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night on the road in front of a national TNT audience, despite the Pelicans missing three crucial starters.

New Orleans was without its two All-Star players, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, while also missing their top defender Herb Jones, all due to injuries.

Even short-handed, the Pelicans took it to the Mavericks right out of the gate, exploding for 40 points in the opening quarter, forcing Dallas to play from behind for most of the game.

To the Mavericks’ credit, they did battle back to hold a seven-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

But the Pelicans just kept coming while the Mavericks’ offense dried up. New Orleans held a 112-107 advantage before Luka Doncic’s spin move and layup in the paint with 30.8 seconds remaining trimmed the score to 112-109.

Doncic took the next possession straight to the rim for an easy layup with four seconds remaining to make it 112-111.

Reporters after the game asked Dallas head coach Jason Kidd whether Doncic’s decision to go for the layup at that moment instead of a potential game-tying 3-pointer was the right choice.

“I trust the next thing he’s going to do,” Kidd said. “I think everyone thought he was going to probably pull up for a three, but he took, I thought, the right play and that was take the two points, and then we’ll figure it out. Make it a free-throw game, and we’ll see what happens.”

The free throw game almost worked as the Mavericks fouled New Orleans’ Devonte Graham on the ensuing inbound pass and the reserve guard missed the second of two free throws.

Christian Wood grabbed the rebound with 2.7 seconds left, and after a timeout advanced the ball to half court, Kidd drew the play for Doncic to head straight for his left-wing sweet spot.

However, like in the season-opening loss to the Phoenix Suns, Doncic’s potential game-winning 3-pointer was short, clanging off the front of the rim.

The loss wasted a dominant offensive effort from Doncic (37 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) and Wood (23 points, six rebounds). Spencer Dinwiddie added 24 points for Dallas, but no other Maverick scored more than eight points.

“We started bad,” Doncic said. “We started relaxed, and that wasn’t good for us.”

Without two of its top offensive players, the Pelicans spread the scoring responsibilities throughout their lineup, with eight players scoring in double-digits. Trey Murphy led them with 22 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting.

New Orleans’ guard CJ McCollum had 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting but led all players with 11 assists. He has 23 assists in his past two games, the most over any two-game stretch he has had in his career.

Few expected the game to be close, with New Orleans (3-1) being short-handed, making the loss sting even more for Dallas (1-2). The Mavericks were without key reserve Tim Hardaway Jr. due to a sore foot, but his absence paled in comparison to the star players New Orleans was missing.

The absence of Williamson, with a hip injury, particularly robbed fans of yet another high-level clash between him and Doncic.

Since being the No.1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson has missed nine of 12 games against Dallas. The last time he played against the Mavericks (March 27, 2021), Doncic was absent with an illness.

The two superstars have not gone head-to-head since February 12, 2021, and will not have the chance again until, at the earliest, January 7, 2023, in the American Airlines Center.

Hopefully, the Mavericks will have figured out their defensive issues that allowed a 40-point first quarter by then.

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Dog Gone
Dog Gone
1 month ago

Shouldn’t we say that the Pelicans were “allegedly short-handed”? You put allegedly in every other article you write whether it is based on fact or opinion, so why not here??