The Dallas Mavericks defeated the New Orleans Pelicans at home Saturday night, 127-117. Luka Doncic led Dallas with another triple double, scoring 34, dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing 10 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas scored 25 to pace the Pelicans in defeat.
Christian Wood opened up on fire for the Mavericks, scoring nine early points to pace Dallas against a depleted Pelicans squad. Unfortunately, he picked up two early fouls, forcing him to the bench. Dallas kept firing though and built up a double digit lead as the Pelicans couldn’t find the bottom of the basket. New Orleans shot just 6-of-26 from the floor, including 0-o-11 from distance in the frame, which helped Dallas hold a solid lead despite some uncharacteristic turnovers. Luka hit a pair of threes to end the quarter and Dallas led 34-15 after 12 minutes of action.
The bench unit continued to score with ease though the Pelicans found some semblance of offense, in the first half of the quarter. Dallas fans got a long look at rookie Jaden Hardy, who played meaningful minutes with both the bench unit and Luka Doncic. Hardy drove into the paint and connected on a three, but also fouled Naji Marshall on a three point attempt. The Mavericks managed to maintain a double digit cushion throughout much of the quarter, and carried a 63-46 lead into half.
The Mavericks came out in the third a bit too unfocused. They got great looks at the basket but failed to convert and stopped getting back on defense. The Pelicans slowly whittled the lead to 11 points forcing a Dallas timeout with around five minutes left in the quarter. The Mavericks refocused and went back to their bread-and-butter connection between Wood and Doncic and closed out the quarter with strong scoring push. Dallas entered the final period up 97-81.
Dallas looked prime to run away with things, building up an 18 point lead with 10:25 left. But fouls, turnovers, and overall sloppy play resulted in the Pelicans cutting that lead to 12 and forcing Jason Kidd to call a timeout. Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed a couple of huge threes to break the game back open and the Mavericks stayed on the attack the rest of the game. The Pelicans would make a late run to close the gap after Dallas had removed the starters, but it wasn’t enough. Dallas wins their 23rd game of the year, defeating the Pelicans 127-117.
Division and conference wins matter
This is going to be a thing I reference at length moving forward, but I still find myself surprised that the Pelicans sat CJ McCollum in a division game. The Pelicans now boast a 7-3 record against division opponents and are 1-1 against Dallas. A win tonight would’ve given them a strong shot at winning the tie breaker with the Mavericks with two games left. The divisional race between the Pelicans, Mavericks, and Grizzlies is going to come down to the final month of the season.
Additionally, take a look at the Dallas record against the West: 17-6. The Grizzlies are 11-10. The Pelicans are 16-10. It doesn’t MEAN anything at the moment, but it’s certainly something I’m thinking about in a very competitive Western Conference.
Jaden Hardy finishing at the rim
Considering the direct messages I got during the game and the adoration I saw on my Twitter timeline, one might assume rookie Jaden Hardy was the second coming of Allen Iverson. While he wasn’t quite that good, he attacked with a mix of relentlessness and patience I rather enjoyed.
Seven made baskets, six of them right there at the rim and all of them with some defense in theory there to cause problems. He had one finish that included a hesitation fake in the paint with a live dribble that was simply beautiful.
He had a pretty rough time finishing with the G-League last year and finishing is NOT a skill that is easy to improve on. So kudos to him for taking advantage of the minutes the Mavericks found for him and giving all of us more things to talk about between games.
The Mavericks having another player confident off the dribble is something that could prove extremely valuable as the season wears on.
Good JaVale McGee minutes
The Dallas front court had a number of foul issues in the first half and McGee deserves a great deal of credit for his next-man-up mentality. His four points, five boards, and two blocks in the first half helped the Mavericks keep the established first quarter lead. He’s not played this much this season and he really shouldn’t play much, but if he can give the Mavericks energy and minutes when it’s lacking or if there’s foul trouble, then that’ll be a boost in the second half of the season.
You can listen to our latest podcast episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Mavs Moneyball podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, or Castbox.
You can check our our After Dark Recap podcasts, Spotify Live recordings, Moneyball Minute shows, and guest shows on the Mavs Moneyball Podcast feed. Please subscribe, rate, and review.