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3 things from a predictable Mavericks loss to the Pelicans, 112-103

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Down their two best players, the Mavericks scrapped but ultimately fell short.

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

With Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis both sitting, the Dallas Mavericks fell to the New Orleans Pelicans,112-103. Tim Hardaway, Jr. led the Mavericks in scoring, putting up 30 points and five rebounds. Zion Williamson was the high scorer for the Pelicans with 38 points, five rebounds, and six assists.

Both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, but New Orleans started the game with all the energy. The Pelicans took control in the first quarter, as the Mavericks couldn’t find any offense. But Dallas found their footing in the second quarter, closing the gap behind a scoring outburst by Hardaway. The Mavericks went on a 17-0 run toward the end of the half, and the teams went into the break tied at 53.

Neither team could pull away in the third, and traded the lead throughout the fourth quarter. But toward the end of the game, the Mavericks could do nothing to contain Williamson. He scored or assisted on all of the Pelicans’ final 14 points to close the game. In the end, Nickeil Alexander-Walker hit a 3-pointer to seal the game off a Williamson assist with a little more than a minute remaining.

It’s hard to evaluate much with Doncic and Porzingis both out. The Mavericks have built their team around Doncic and try to involve Porzingis as much as possible, so when they’re not on the floor it’s a completely different team. There’s not a lot of big picture takeaways here. But here are three observations from what ended up being a predictable loss:

Tim Hardaway Jr. showed up big

Hardaway exploded in the first half, scoring 21 of his 30 points, including 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arc. He singlehandedly kept the Mavericks in the game with his play. Hardaway isn’t always consistent, but he’s the reason Dallas has won several games this season.

Hardaway couldn’t continue his hot scoring in the second half, only putting up nine points the rest of the way. New Orleans shifted some of their focus to shutting him down, and it showed. He’s just not built to be a primary scorer, and without Doncic for the defense to key in on, the Pelicans were able to slow Hardaway down.

It was Hardaway’s second 30 point game of the season. Usually when he puts up numbers like that, the Mavericks win. But that was not the case tonight.

Despite being down several players, Rick Carlisle still didn’t play the rookies

Carlisle’s refusal to play the rookies is baffling. The Mavericks were down four players — Doncic, Porzingis, along with the recently traded James Johnson and Wes Iwundu. Johnson and Iwundu weren’t getting steady minutes, but in a game where Doncic and Porzingis were out they surely would have seen some time on the court.

So when Josh Green and Tyler Bey didn’t play at all, it was surprising to say the least. Your margin for winning significantly shrinks when you sit all-stars, even against weaker teams like the Pelicans. The game can come down to just a few mistakes, and it goes without saying that rookies make plenty of mistakes. But with such a shortened rotation it just doesn’t make sense to see Green and Bey not play, even if it’s just in limited stretches.

Josh Richardson continues to struggle

The Mavericks are playing with the shortest regular season rotation I’ve ever seen. If someone in that rotation struggles, it impacts the game in a significant way. Richardson only scored four points on 1-11 shooting. He also had three of the Mavericks’ seven turnovers. Dallas simply can’t afford for anyone to play badly if one of their two stars sit. And if both of them are out, it’s a disaster. No one is asking for Richardson to carry the Mavericks when Doncic is out, but he’s got to be more efficient. The Mavericks can’t afford for their starting shooting guard to have more turnovers than field goals. Dallas is 19-7 when Richardson scores at least 10 points, and winless in nine games when he doesn’t.

Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.