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3 things we learned as the Mavericks edge out the Pelicans

The bleeding stops as the Mavericks survive a nail biter.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

With both teams slumping coming into tonight’s game - the Dallas Mavericks had lost six straight while the New Orleans Pelicans had lost four straight - it was fair to wonder what kind of performance these teams would put on.

After a back and forth affair, the Mavericks survived an Anthony Davis onslaught and win 122-119. As the Mavericks go through this brutal stretch, the wins have been elusive, but one thing is for certain: They are a part of some fun basketball games.

Here’s what we learned as the Mavericks notched their 16th win of the season.

Maxi Kleber is contagious

In a move that Twitter GM’s have been clamoring for a while now, Kleber got the start in place of Jalen Brunson primarily to match up with the Pelicans size. Last time these two teams played Anthony Davis and Julius Randle manhandled the Mavericks, so it was a good move on Rick Carlisle’s part.

And while Kleber isn’t the best rebounder (in fact he’s not a good rebounder at all), he’s hustle and activity is energizing. It’s life giving. And honestly it helped keep the Mavericks mentally afloat while Anthony Davis dog-walked the Mavericks for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Kleber was a team-high plus-five while recording a career high six blocks. There were a few instances where Kleber rotated and met a Pelican at the rim displaying his shot-swatting chops. The Mavericks recorded 13 blocks compared to the Pelicans two, and Kleber setting the tone is a big reason why. With Dirk Nowitzki getting healthier, one of Kleber or Dwight Powell’s minutes will be reduced. Kleber made his case tonight.

J.J. Barea saved the day

One of these days Barea will no longer be saving the Mavericks butt, but today was not that day. The Pelicans seemed to control most of the second half and had a lead in the fourth quarter until Barea put his imprint on the ball game. He posted 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but his three-point shooting in the fourth quarter gave the Mavericks a chance which they took advantage of.

Luka Doncic knocked on the door of history

So close. After struggling against the Pelicans in the first matchup, the 19-year-old redeemed himself in a colossal way posting 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. He was one board short of becoming the youngest player ever to record a triple double, but he ultimately was instrumental in helping the Mavericks end the six game losing streak.

In addition to the gaudy stat line, Doncic went 11-of-12 from the free throw line, including 3-of-4 in the final minute of the game. Equally as impressive, Doncic only coughed the ball up one time while being hounded by Jrue Holiday who was first-team all defense last season. In Doncic’s last five games he’s averaging 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He’s rolling.

Other notes

  • DeAndre Jordan receives a lot of flack but he had a fine game. His numbers will always be somewhat empty, but his 20 points and 12 rebounds were huge. Jordan recorded two points and eight rebounds against the Pelicans in the first game, so this is a big bounce back performance.
  • The Mavericks were able to survive the Pelicans shooting 44 percent from three thanks to 32 of 38 free throws. The Mavericks have struggled to knock down the freebies lately so it was encouraging to see the attempts from the charity stripe fall down.
  • Julius Randle continues to cook against the Mavericks. After dominating with 27 points and 18 rebounds against the Mavericks the first go around, the Dallas native recorded 23 points and four rebounds while posting a game-high plus-14. He is clearly a matchup nightmare for the Mavericks.