After a disheartening loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas secured a big 96-83 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Between the Mavs’ addition of Nerlens Noel, the new age twin towers of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins, and not-so-distant playoff implications, there was a buzz of energy to start this game. While Dirk got Dallas on the board with a three, the Pelicans front court started the game strong, leading New Orleans to make their first five shots. Less than 2 minutes into the game, Cousins and Davis ran a pick and roll leading to an alley-oop finish and an and-1 opportunity for the Brow. Plays like this are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential that these two players have as teammates. With 6:57 left in the quarter, Noel checked into the game and was quick to impress. Between his quick hands, as on display when he poked the ball away from Anthony on the block, to his multiple tip rebounds, to his first field goal as a Dallas Maverick on a 10 foot face-up jumper, Noel looked good. Regardless, the quarter ended with the Pelicans leading 30-24
Dallas started the second quarter on a run, taking the first lead of the game at 31-24. For reasons unknown, Alvin Gentry decided to start staggering Cousins and Davis’ minutes, effectively allowing Dallas to double team and shade aggressively towards whichever one was in the game. After strong play by Dallas, largely helped by Cousins picking up his third foul and heading to the bench with more than 7 minutes to go (thank you Salah), and an 8 point quarter from Dorian Finney-Smith (he’s alive!), Anthony Davis scored the Pelicans’ last 6 baskets and New Orleans took a 49-47 lead into the half. Fun fact: of the Pelicans 49 points, the Cousins/Davis/Holiday trio was responsible for 45 of which Anthony Davis alone had 27.
The third quarter was largely uneventful, and included roughly a 4 minute scoreless stretch with the score stuck at 53-51. Dirk made a few shots, Devin Harris continued his strong play with a surprisingly quick drive to the basket, and Dallas managed to limit Anthony Davis to a single point in the quarter. The two most exciting things to happen in the quarter were the refs missing a blatant fend-off from Boogie as he converted a layup over Noel, and Jrue Holiday fouling Harrison Barnes on a full court heave with time expiring, leading to 3 made free throws, giving Dallas a 67-63 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final frame, Carlisle opted to go with Seth Curry and Devin Harris over Yogi for the first 6 minutes. The Mavs continued their strength-in-numbers approach as no single player filled up the stat sheet in bursts, but rather Dirk, Curry, Barnes and Doe Doe all made baskets at key moments. With the Pelicans struggling to score, Dallas extended the lead to 84-75 on a Curry three forcing a New Orleans timeout with 4:48 to go. After the Pelicans cut the lead down to six, a Harris score inside, and a Barnes three showed to be the daggers as Dallas won 96-83. Dirk continued his march towards 30,000 points with an efficient 18 points and 9 rebounds, on 8-12 shooting while Nerlens Noel had a cool 9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal outing in 30 minutes including an open court dunk off of a steal to end the game.
4 Things and 1 Question
- Many people seem to assume that its a given that the Pelicans will secure the coveted 8th seed in the Western Conference. While this is a real possibility, there are good reasons why arguing against the Pelicans shouldn’t be such a hot take. Mainly: while Davis and Cousins are among if not the best 4/5 tandem in the league, a) they still need to learn how to play together, and b) outside of the duo and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans don’t have a single NBA starter quality player on the roster. While having stars is definitely helpful, players 4-10 matter too.
- Nerlens Noel looked great. While Dallas may have to wait another game before witnessing a successful Harris to Noel alley-oop, Nerlens looked really good, especially considering who he was playing against. He was agile on the perimeter, quick on his feet, had active hands, made his free-throws and played a huge role in keeping the Mavs deficit in rebounds to just 2. Although it was clear that he has yet to be familiarized with the Dallas playbook, his addition is one that we can (hopefully) be excited about for a long time.
- Playbook aside, I’m really excited to see how good this team looks once the players get used to playing with each other. Prime example: on the first play of the second quarter, Yogi beat Holiday off of the dribble and drove towards the basket. At the last second, Nerlens smartly sealed off Davis giving Yogi an open lane for a lay-up. Unfortunately, Yogi was expecting a hard Davis contest and opted to kick the ball out. Although Dallas was lucky to score on this possession nonetheless, plays like this serve as a reminder that chemistry takes time.
- One question that Noel’s arrival does raise is what happens to Dwight Powell? After emerging with a legitimate role on the team this season, one has to wonder where Powell’s minutes will come from.
- Raise your hand if you knew that Jarrett Jack was in the league/on the Pelicans. Anyone?