The Dallas Mavericks defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 139-107 Wednesday night at Smoothie King Arena. Brandon Ingram led all scorers with 29 points in a losing efforts. Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavericks, scoring 28 and dishing out 14 assists. Jalen Brunson had 17 points off the bench.
Dallas won easily and pounced on New Orleans early and really never let up. At one point the Mavericks stretched their lead to 38 points.
Jason Kidd changed up the starting lineup, moving Tim Hardaway Jr. to the bench and starting Reggie Bullock. It’d be easy to say that move sparked the Mavericks’ offensive outburst against the Pelicans, but that wasn’t it.
In reality, it was Luka finally playing loose and energetic basketball for what seems like the first time all year. Here are three observations from the game:
Luka and the Mavericks started the game out with incredible energy.
The Mavericks jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back, scoring 41 points (nice) in the first quarter. Dallas looked lively in a way that has been rare all season. Sparked by Luka, the Mavericks were everywhere and active on both sides of the ball.
Luka just moved like basketball was easy again. He scored 18 in the first quarter and played hard on defense. Even his dribble looked bouncier. Despite his numbers all season, it’s looked like basketball is a chore to Luka. Not tonight.
His energy lifted the rest of the team. The ball moved well and the whole team had very active hands on defense. It’s the kind of performance the team has needed all season.
The Mavericks role players hit their shots — finally.
All season we’ve been waiting on the shots to fall. They finally did. And not from just one player. The entire team shot the lights out. The Mavericks shot 52% from behind the arc and 68% overall. At one point late in the fourth they were shooting almost 70% from the field. That’s...unusual. And good!
Hardaway went 4-of-7 on 3-pointers in his first game off the bench this season. Bullock, in his first start, went 2-of-3. Dorian Finney-Smith went 2-of-2. Maxi Kleber shot 1-of-2. Jalen Brunson went 3-of-4. Sterling Brown even hit his only 3-pointer.
The only player who struggled from deep was Kristaps Porzingis, who went 1-of-6. But he still managed to put up 20 points. So as has been the case for three years now, when the Mavericks’ role players hit 3’s, the Mavericks win.
The Mavericks still need a defensive stopper on the wing.
Brandon Ingram scored an easy 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-5 from deep. The Mavericks really have no one who can guard him effectively. That wasn’t a problem tonight, because the Pelicans are a tire fire everywhere else on the roster. But to advance deep into the playoffs, they’re going to have to find someone who can slow down top tier wings. Finney-Smith isn’t that guy. Maybe Bullock can be going forward.
But as of now, that player isn’t on the roster. Two years in a row Kawhi Leonard and Paul George exposed the Mavericks’ perimeter defense in the playoffs. It’s happened multiple times in the regular season too, against players like Jayson Tatum. It’s crucial that they figure it out before the postseason, or the result may end up being the same.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.