The Dallas Mavericks defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 125-107, pushing their record to 41-29 and putting them in a good position to avoid the play-in. Luka Doncic finished with 33 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, while Kristaps Porzingis returned to the lineup and had 19 points of his own. The Pelicans were missing four of their starters, forcing their backup players to carry the load.
Porzingis got the Mavericks started offensively, with scores from three, the mid-range and off a steal he created, for 12 points. By the halfway point of the first quarter, however, Jalen Brunson and Willie Cauley-Stein checked in, and the lineup gave easy baskets back to the Pelicans. The Mavericks finished the first quarter up 32-30.
The Mavericks quickly burst out to a 10-0 run within the first two minutes of the second quarter, led by Doncic who scored eight of his own in the run. Luka went on fire from three, hitting 5-of-6 attempts in the period, extending the Mavericks run to 25-6. Dallas led 77-58 at the half.
Both teams essentially traded buckets for much of the third quarter, with Doncic continuing his substantial output for the Mavericks and a balanced offense from the Pelicans, including former Maverick James Johnson. Dallas eased off the gas to close the game, emptying the bench with around six minutes to go.
Dallas took care of business early (and decided not to reap many of the benefits of doing so).
A huge second quarter run including three consecutive three-pointers put the Mavericks up more than 20 and essentially eliminated any chance New Orleans had of making a comeback. The Mavericks didn’t play spectacular, but a few extended scoring runs were enough against a Pelicans team missing its four best players (Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Steven Adams, Brandon Ingram).
Naturally, one would expect such a game would be a prime opportunity to give the Maverick starters some needed rest, as well as some extended playing time for the rookies. Instead, Doncic trotted back out to start the fourth quarter as the Mavericks were up 30, and no rookie saw time until six minutes remaining in the game. Perhaps Rick Carlisle has seen a few too many late game scares in his time coaching to take any chances.
Luka Doncic regained his stroke from deep and bounced back from his performance against the Grizzlies.
Speaking on his struggles last night in Memphis, Doncic felt it was one of the worst games of his career. It’s very rare for him to have two straight such performances, and as expected he was fantastic tonight, especially from the three-point line where he made half of his 14 attempts. He got a little sloppy in the fourth, missing all four of his shots and turning the ball over twice, but still finished the game having played only 31 minutes.
Tim Hardaway Jr. also deserves a shoutout, as he’s now scored 20 points or more in six of the last eight games. He had 27 points on 56 percent shooting, and his role as a volume shooter and a decisive all-around player is proving to be invaluable for the Mavericks.
Porzingis was effective on the offensive end in his first game back.
On the offensive side of the ball, Porzingis had a productive all-around performance, making shots from all three scoring levels, along with three free throws. He provided a boost to start the game, putting up 12 points in the opening minutes, after which he spent much time on the bench resting as the Mavericks pulled away.
The results were much more mixed on the defensive end, where Porzingis essentially provided almost no rim protection and gave up repeated drives to the likes of Willy Hernangomez and the Pelicans guards. This culminated in some frustration that saw KP receive a technical foul for throwing the ball at the end of the third quarter after Hernangomez scored against him at the basket. He finished with a plus/minus of minus-1 in a blowout win, though it may just be a coincidence he wasn’t on the floor during the Mavericks offensive bursts. His defense is almost entirely a function of his general mobility, and hopefully that will improve as he works back from the knee soreness that kept him out seven games.
All that being said, it was a productive first game back and hopefully Porzingis can ramp his way back to full speed on both ends of the floor by the time the playoffs begin.
The Mavericks host the Toronto Raptors for a Friday Night match in Dallas, which can be viewed on League Pass or Bally Sports.
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.