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Key takeaways as the Mavericks defeat the Pelicans 125-120 in MLK Day showdown

The Mavericks responded with energy and shot-making after Saturday night’s loss

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks (24-17) defeated the New Orleans Pelicans (24-17) in an exciting early afternoon MLK Day tipoff. The Mavericks responded with energy and intensity after a lackluster loss to the Pelicans, who sat their starters on Saturday. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kyrie Irving led the way for the Mavericks with a combined 83 points, as Zion Williamson led the way for the Pelicans with 30. This is the second time in franchise history that the Mavericks have finished a game with two guys scoring 40+.

Dereck Lively returned to action this afternoon, while Luka Doncic, Derrick Jones Jr., and Dante Exum were unavailable due to injuries. The Mavericks debuted their 23rd starting lineup this year as they continue to struggle with the injury bug. For New Orleans, Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy all returned to action after missing Saturday night’s game.

The first half of this matchup started with the Mavericks coming out of the gate with energy on the defensive end, allowing the Pelicans to score just 17 points to their 33 in the first quarter. The energy shifted in favor of the Pelicans in the second quarter, where New Orleans scored at will, with the Mavericks playing as if there was a lid on the basket. A double-technical was assessed to Grant Williams and Naji Marshall at the 8:55 mark of the second quarter, seemingly propelling the Pelicans to outscore the Mavericks 42-26.

The second half of this afternoon's game kicked off with both teams trading baskets. The Mavericks had to dig deep into their bench when Josh Green, Dwight Powell, and Lively got into foul trouble in the third quarter. When the Mavericks couldn’t get stops early in the fourth, Hardaway Jr., Irving, and Green willed this team until the final buzzer. The matchup was a nail-biter in the final seconds, where Williamson was intentionally fouled with the Mavericks up by two before missing one free throw.

The Mavericks’ three-point shooting was critical in this matchup, with the team shooting 18-of-43 for 42% from behind the arc. Another key component in this victory was the rebounding advantage the Mavericks had, outrebounding the Pelicans 42-37. Here are some more key takeaways to note from today’s game.

Lively’s return shows how badly the Mavericks need size

Lively’s return to action made this afternoon’s matchup a different story than Saturday’s. Despite the questionable whistle he was given this afternoon, his impact stood out on the boards and holding down the paint on the defensive end. He grabbed five rebounds in the fourth quarter which led to huge second-chance possessions for Dallas. He ended the game with 12 rebounds, seven on the offensive end. The Mavericks have missed his presence on the defensive end and his ability to grab rebounds. His return shows once again how important this 19-year-old is to this team and how the Mavericks need his size to compete.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s shot-making was nuclear

In a game where the Mavericks were shorthanded, Hardaway Jr. stepped up to the plate to help make this game competitive. When it felt like the Mavericks couldn’t get anything going in the second quarter, Hardaway provided 14 points to tie the game heading into intermission. Hardaway helped keep this game in reach, putting up his fifth 30+ point game of the season. He ended the game with a season-high 41 points on nine three-pointers, with the Mavericks needing every last point he could provide.

Kyrie Irving continues to carry the Mavericks in Doncic’s absence

Irving led the way in this one, scoring 42 points in Doncic’s absence. Irving has been electric since his return from injury and has proved why the Mavericks made the trade for him last season. This afternoon, Irving had his fifth consecutive 30+ point game. Irving was a bright spot in the third quarter for the Mavericks when the Pelicans tried to pull away in the game, and he hit two crucial free throws in the final seconds that put the Mavericks up by three before Ingram missed a pullup jumper to tie the game.

The Mavericks return to action Wednesday as they take on the Los Angeles Lakers at 7:30 PM CST. Hopefully this matchup sees returns to the lineup by Doncic and company.