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New Orleans Pelicans run into fourth quarter problems again as Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks prevail, 122-119

New Orleans fails to hold onto another 2nd half lead and the current losing streak has now reached five games.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Same story, different day.

The New Orleans Pelicans led for a good deal of a second half, got overtaken in a fourth quarter and then watched an opponent make more positive plays during the final few minutes of a game. Tonight’s result: a 122-119 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

“It’s kind of a duplicate of what we’ve been going through where we play good basketball and now we have all kinds of trouble closing games,” said Alvin Gentry after the defeat. “{We} have a couple of defensive mishaps, but then when you really, really need to make a shot, we didn’t make them and they did.”

Over the final three minutes, Darius Miller missed a three, Julius Randle missed a twelve-footer and then seconds later was called for a — you guessed it — an offensive foul, and Anthony Davis missed a couple of three-point attempts, including this potential go-ahead score with 19.3 second remaining.

I know Anthony Davis was hot, and he was carrying the team nicely for much of the critical part of the fourth quarter, but that’s not a good shot. He’s never been reliable from three-point range so it’s a shame New Orleans couldn’t get him the ball closer to the rim — where he was torching the defense of Dallas — and also a few more times preceding this play.

“Well, he had played well,” Gentry on being asked about the performance of Davis. “I thought we should have gotten him the ball a few more times. We were just a little impatient. I thought he had such an advantage that he had taken advantage of it the last two times down the floor. We’ve got to get him the ball in those situations.”

You know who didn’t have a problem getting the ball whenever and wherever he wanted?

Luka Doncic.

This kid is sooooo the real deal. The 19-year-old missed registering a triple-double by one rebound (21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds), and he carried Dallas to the finish line (although J.J. Barea proved to be a prickly thorn in all sides again). The rookie’s grit and savvy is that of a veteran, as evidenced by drawing a charge on Davis in the third quarter, but getting to the free throw line with 30 second remaining in a tie game is big time. Down the stretch he sank three of four free throws which proved the difference in the game. Aren’t you jealous of Mark Cuban’s good fortune too?

Overall, the big three for the Pelicans played well for the most part. Anthony Davis finished with a line of 32 points and 18 rebounds, Jrue Holiday wound up with 25 points, six assists and five rebounds and Julius Randle poured in 23. The only other New Orleans member to hit double digits was Frank Jackson with 10, which included a couple of threes, an acrobatic reverse lay-in and a hard slam dunk.

That’s not enough production where New Orleans typically needs 115+ points to get a win. The lack of depth remains an eyesore. Solomon Hill and Tim Frazier are allergic to scoring. Miller prefers only open looks from deep. And E’Twaun Moore remains in such a huge funk, or maybe it’s just easier on the soul at this point to just admit he was playing well over his head earlier in the season because we haven’t seen that guy in a really long time.

While tonight’s contest was decided in clutch time again, New Orleans could have played better earlier even though the energy was fine throughout. The Pelicans had built a couple of eight-point leads in the first half to only find themselves down three points at intermission, and then a couple of seven-point advantages evaporated just as quickly in the third quarter.

“We had an eight-point lead and then make a couple of dumb plays,” said Gentry. “We’ve got to get that out of our system. As I told you guys, you don’t lose the game in the last two minutes of the game. You step out of bounds three times — that’s elementary school. You can’t step out of bounds when we throw you the ball. That’s one of those turnovers that’s ridiculous to have.”

I concur with the head coach on needing to play smarter, but at this point, you’ve got to wonder just how perfectly New Orleans needs to play in order to get back into the win column against a good opponent on the road. The Pelicans made 44% of their three-pointers, got to the line 30 times, committed only 10 turnovers and won the points-in-the-paint battle 52-46.

And still lost.

At some point, I think we all need to accept the reality of the situation: it’s not a fluke that New Orleans sits in the bottom tier of the Western Conference despite the presence of one of its brightest stars. Thirty-five games in, the Pelicans have posted an underwhelming 15-20 record, and even though we’re not halfway through the schedule yet, last year’s pace is beginning to feel out of reach.