1 Thought after Mavericks Disappointing Loss to Pelicans

It was a close game, but the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Dallas Mavericks 113-111 on Tuesday night in New Orleans, despite missing three starters.

Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and New Orleans’ greatest wing player Herb Jones were all unavailable. Even with those setbacks, the Pelicans still gave the Mavericks a run for their money despite the Mavericks’ well-rested and reasonably healthy roster (excluding Tim Hardaway Jr., who was out with a painful foot).

Dallas fell behind early on and was never able to catch up. The Mavericks faced an uphill battle after the Pelicans scored 40 points in the opening period. The Mavericks earned a lead going into the final frame because their defense tightened up in the middle two periods. Although the Mavericks had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, Luka Doncic missed a three-pointer and the Pelicans kept on coming.

Doncic scored a game-high 37 points, and he also had 11 rebounds and seven assists. Even though Trey Murphy scored 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting to lead the Pelicans, the team as a whole contributed equally to the win.

One thing I did observe is this:

The Mavericks’ Success since the pick of Luka Doncic can be boiled down to a single, Simple Formula:

put Doncic in a position to succeed by surrounding him with shooters, another ball handler, and a rim-running big. The Mavericks have relied heavily on this strategy ever since Doncic was drafted, and the results have been consistently positive. Not even the Mavericks’ journey to the Western Conference Finals earlier this year can disprove its efficacy.

(In the voice of Stephen A. Smith) On the other hand, when the formula fails, it fails miserably. Dallas has built a team around Doncic to help him flourish, rather than the other way around. Doncic’s usage rate of 39.3 percent is the highest in the NBA and he has been in the top three every season since his second.

Mavericks vs. Pelicans highlights
Mavericks vs. Pelicans highlights

Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood, as the Mavericks now stand, all have the ability to create good shooting opportunities for themselves. Against the Pelicans, the three led the Mavericks with 37, 24, and 23 points, respectively; no one else scored more than eight.

While the Pelicans were missing three starters, five other players scored 13 or more points. The Mavericks have won a lot of games thanks in part to the efforts of decent but not dynamic players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, JaVale McGee and Josh Green.

They excel at their designated tasks, but if another group were to steal some of their thunder, they would be left with little to defend themselves with. Teams have had enough experience with Kleber and Finney-Smith draining open threes for them to adjust accordingly.

As well as knowing what they can do, they are also aware of their limitations. Through three games, it has appeared as though the Mavericks’ supporting cast has less space to operate from deep because opponents are staying home to prevent Doncic from driving to the basket.

Teams hope that Doncic will tire himself out trying to carry the team for three quarters, and then that his teammates won’t be able to make up for his absence until the second half. Tonight, the Pelicans were victimized in this way.

With two minutes left in the fourth and the Mavericks down 111-107, Doncic was double-teamed at the top of the key during one possession. He sent the ball to Dinwiddie, who sent a corner kick to Bullock. New Orleans’ defender made a powerful enough closing move to prevent Bullock from making a three-pointer.

The other group of guys on the court are equipped with more dynamic talents and can accomplish more on their own. Considering the history of some of the Pelicans’ players, it’s not surprising. On his way to being selected 17th overall in 2021, Trey Murphy tallied 22 points on 8-of-8 shooting and 5 boards.

With 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, three steals, and a block, Dyson Daniels was the eighth overall choice in the 2022 NBA draught. Even though Jaxson Hayes didn’t contribute much tonight, he’s still a potential top-10 pick. And remember, this is before we even consider Zion Williamson and Herb Jones, two more homegrown first-rounders.

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