In what looked like a blowout from the start, the Mavericks pulled a total Maverick and kept us all just interested enough until the final minutes but never quite cleared the hurdle. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were absolute monsters. Davis led the Pelicans with 30 points and 13 rebounds while Cousins was unstoppable with 20 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists. Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 26 points on 9-17 shooting including 7-10 from the free throw line. He also grabbed six boards and dished three assists.
The game started ominously for the Mavericks as they stumbled out of the gates. Wesley Matthews was the only Maverick to score for about the first six minutes pumping in seven first quarter points. The Pelicans had their way for the majority of the quarter as Cousins and Davis did nearly whatever they wanted. The Mavericks were down by as many as 14 points at one point until they closed the quarter on a 13-2 run over the final two minutes and 42 seconds.
The Mavs took a brief lead at 31-30 at the beginning of the second quarter until the Pelicans regained the lead and stretched it for much of the second frame. There weren’t many Mavs highlights until Nerlens Noel grabbed an offensive rebound, found a cutting Dennis Smith Jr., and the rookie cocked back and absolutely unloaded a tomahawk jam causing Cousins to make a business decision and get out of the way.
DSJ DUNK pic.twitter.com/kRntsRrhYz— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) November 4, 2017
Harrison Barnes kept the Mavericks within striking distance scoring 13 points in the second quarter. But Boogie and Davis propelled the Pelicans to a 55-46 halftime lead nearly outscoring and out rebounding the Mavericks themselves.
The Pelicans picked up right where they left off rattling off an 8-0 run until the Mavericks finally scored their first points of the third quarter on a Devin Harris free throw with 8:50 left in the frame. Strong offense from Barnes and timely hustle and defensive plays from Salah Mejri kept the score respectable, but a 2-15 shooting start doomed the Mavericks as the Pelicans took a 75-63 lead scoring the last six points of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was much of the same. The Mavericks did just enough to barely hang on, but ultimately couldn’t quite get over the hump. The lead was trimmed to as little as 6 as the Mavericks outscored the Pelicans 31-24 in the quarter, but Davis and Cousins were too much in the end pushing the Pelicans to a victory knocking the Mavericks to 1-9 on the season and while the New Orleans moved to 4-5.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s growing pains
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season so far with the ninth overall pick. For all the highs (see tweet above) there are some lows. Particularly, turnovers have been a problem. In his past five games, Smith Jr. has recorded turnover totals of four, six, four, six and four. Life is hard for a teenager in the NBA. He's faced a gauntlet of point guards and defenders and it’s showed.
The rookie looked a bit lost tonight. He didn’t attack off the pick-and-roll and seemed indecisive on when to shoot and when to set teammates up. Smith Jr. finished the game with 16 points on 7-20 shooting, including 2-8 from deep. He also contributed four assists and three rebounds. Luckily, Rick Carlisle is giving Junior the chance to play through any struggles. Frankly, there isn’t much choice. Better days are ahead, and lack of confidence doesn’t seem to plague the 19 year old.
The Pelicans size
The Pelicans probably have the best four-five combo in the NBA and it was evident tonight. Boogie and The Brow looked like men playing against boys combining for 50 points and 35 rebounds. Whether Noel, Dirk, Barnes, Salah Mejri or Dwight Powell was guarding either Davis or Cousins, it generally matter.
The Pelicans outscored the Mavericks in the paint 50-40 and out-rebounded the Mavs 53-47. Smith Jr. had an especially difficult time finishing amongst the giants as did the other Mavericks. New Orleans’ size and length helped contribute to Dallas turning the ball over 15 times and shooting 39 percent.
Salah asks and Salah receives
After requesting more playing time, Mejri played a season high 22 minutes, and man, did he make an impact. Mejri almost singlehandedly kept Dallas competitive with his energy and defense in the third quarter. He blocked shots, kept possessions alive and was just enough of a pest to somewhat slow down Cousins and Davis down low.
What’s more is Mejri’s play was emphatically better than Noel’s. Mejri contributed seven points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, and he was a plus-six on the night, while Noel rode the pine and failed to score a point but grabbed seven rebounds. He was a minus-18. I don't know what this means for Mejri’s future. Carlisle will probably attribute it to matchups. But Mejri put himself out there and delivered. That means something to some team.