Following an 0-4 West coast road trip, despite playing well in all four games, the Mavericks were back home at the AAC for a post holiday match up against the New Orleans Pelicans. Like the Mavs, the Pelicans find themselves just a few games out of the current playoff picture in the crowded Western Conference. It was Luka Doncic and the Mavericks who improved their spot in the standings tonight with a 122-119 victory.
Luka’s playmaking/free throws
With Smith Jr. continuing to rehab his right wrist injury, Luka has been able to have the offense start and end with him. He’s been able to dictate the pace of the game whether he’s acting as a scorer or a playmaker for his teammates.
Tonight, Luka continued to showcase his skills against the Pelicans, finishing just short of a triple double with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists as well as shooting 11/12 from the line. The pick-and-roll with Luka and DJ was especially efficient tonight, as Doncic was able to find DeAndre with crisp bounce passes, leading to either a dunk or a trip to the line. And even then, there were a plethora of blown opportunities or fouls that could’ve ended up as an assist for Luka.
Down the stretch, Luka had the ball in his hands, facilitating and getting to the charity stripe to clinch the victory. “He did a great job getting fouled, which was a huge play,” Carlisle said of Luka getting to the line down the stretch.
It slowly seems like Luka is finally gaining some respect from the officials as he’s been making more and more trips to the free throw line over the past few games, and even then it seems like he’s still deserving of more calls.
Barea/Harris help close the game
The dynamic bench duo struck gold once again tonight as buddies J.J. Barea and Devin Harris ignited a run in the fourth quarter, scoring a combined 21 of their 34 points in the final frame. Both veteran guards went on a three-point shooting spree to close the gap and help give Dallas the lead.
“Harris was aggressive the whole night. The two three’s Barea hit when the game was basically even, got us the lead and got the crowd going into it. That was huge,” Carlisle said of Harris and Barea’s play tonight.
Dirk is improving
Don’t look now, but The Ghostface Drilla is still alive and well, folks. Dirk played 12 minutes tonight, making this only the second game of his young season where he’s played in the second half. Dirk scores a season-high 7 points while also blocking two shots. Yes, Dirk blocked two shots, or as he joked after the game “Well, they’re strips more than blocks so let’s be honest.”
”I felt better. Behind that eight weeks where I couldn’t do anything put me far behind the eight ball,” Dirk said on how he’s felt. “I’ve been working extremely hard but I’ve came a long way from two weeks ago to now. There’s no way two weeks ago I would’ve made it to 12 minutes.”
Now, none of us are expecting the Dirk of old to reemerge to play 34 minutes per night and be a go-to scorer but he can still shoot the rock and will certainly give this team and the AAC crowd a boost when he’s on the floor.
It’s clear that Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the league but he’s not alone on the Pelicans front line as Julius Randle is skilled as well and always seems to dominate against his hometown Mavericks. Tonight, was no different for those two big men as they scored a combined 55 points, including 18 rebounds from Davis and not to forget 25 points from Jrue Holiday.
With Dennis Smith Jr. out of the lineup once again, Rick Carlisle made an adjustment in attempt to counteract the Pelicans front court by starting Maxi Kleber alongside DeAndre Jordan. In DSJ’s absence, it’s typically been Dorian Finney-Smith or Jalen Brunson filling in as a starter.
It certainly helped having another big body out there to help defend the likes of Davis and Randle but there’s only so much you can do against a guy like Anthony Davis.
Luckily for the Mavs, or not, they’ll face off against Davis and the Pelicans in New Orleans again on Friday.
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