The Pelicans beat the Dallas Mavericks 132-106 Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center, pushing their record back to .500 at 13-13. New Orleans shot 55 percent from the field and 59% from three for the game, leading by as many as 29 throughout most of the second half after grabbing a 16-point halftime advantage. It was an easy win, regardless of an Anthony Davis ankle injury scare.
Davis (9 assists, five blocks) and Julius Randle (18 rebounds!) each scored 27 points and E’Twaun Moore and Jrue Holiday (eight assists, four steals) each totaled 17 to lead the way for Nola. Dallas was led by six players in double-figures with Harrison Barnes topping out at 16; the Mavs shot 42 percent and had 18 turnovers in the loss that took them down to 12-11 after an impressive month or so of play, winning nine of their prior 11 contests.
The game began with the Pels continuing a long-simmering problem: the first half and quarter of the game; it’s just as true now as it was when my podcast partner Trevor Ritchie wrote about it. If New Orleans could just prevent a massive total like the 77 they gave up to the Clippers two days ago, they’d give themselves a shot.
Before you knew it, the score was 14-7 Dallas and you felt a night of looking up “disappointed Alvin Gentry” gifs. But Randle, Holiday and starter Tim Frazier all provided the early playmaking, much of it reaching AD’s hands: he scored 15 in the first quarter alone. A Dallas bench unit characterized by ESPN’s Zach Lowe as “wackadoo” kept things alive for the Mavericks with NBA spare parts JJ Barea, Dwight Powell, Max Kleber and Devin Harris.
Cheick Diallo (10 points, 10 rebounds, three steals) and E’Twaun Moore were the first reserve men into the game for the Pels, another new combination in an otherwise shifting core off the bench sans-Randle, who started the night due to a Nikola Mirotic illness. Dallas’ seven turnovers helped the Pels to a 32-31 lead after one.
Darius Miller made himself known early in the 2nd quarter, helping push the Pels to a 49-36 lead.
Then, the offense began to flow, often through 6th Man of the Year candidate (or will he start too many games??) Julius Randle, as it does at times for this club. Jrue made a layup to get the team to 60 points with more than three minutes left in the half. Even Solomon Hill made a shot to put the good guys up 13. We’re feeling good, and then even better after a wide open Jrue three-pointer that leaves New Orleans’ advantage at 69-53 at half.
Julius had 22 points and 9 rebounds in the first half, while frontcourt teammate AD had 18, four assists, two blocks and two steals — gaudy stat lines for just 24 minutes of action. Davis is a potential triple-double, or maybe more impressively, a 5x5 candidate every time he takes the floor now. Guards Holiday, Frazier and Moore totaled 14 assists and Nola had a first half total of 21.
Holiday unleashed a one-legged Dirk-style fadeaway, showing those Jrue-jitsu skills on yet another helpless opponent, this time DeAndre Jordan. Soon after, he defensively dismantled Dallas’ possession which led to a Davis layup.
He’d finish the night with four steals. A Randle three-pointer — he’s made five of his last seven after making ZERO three’s in 10 of his prior 12 games — convinced Rick Carlisle to stop play.
+++AD down alert+++
AD down at 5:47 mark of 3rd quarter, AD down at 5:47 mark of 3rd quarter.
+++AD down alert+++
The game was probably over when Diallo soared for a dunk to make it 90-67, followed by, you guessed it, another Holiday steal and dunk. 92-67. Oh, and finally Wakanda made an appearance!
===AD okay alert===
AD back to bench at 1:59 mark of 3rd quarter, AD back to bench at 1:59 mark of 3rd quarter.
===AD okay alert===
The Pels led 97-80 after three quarters and the Pels put the game away thanks to a steady effort to attack the rim and walk to the free throw line. At one point, Jrue Holiday... I’m gonna say “waltzed” around a high pick and then “strolled” to a layup. It was bizarrely easy and Carlisle couldn’t even bring himself to bench the guilty parties. After E’Twaun scored five quick ones, the Pels had it wrapped up with over six minutes left in the game, giving us plenty of garbage time to consider big Pels questions.
Does Randle stay the starter when Mirotic comes back from illness?
Two huge games as a starter makes for good Twitter fodder. Both bigs tend to play well with AD (shocker); Mirotic and Davis combining as one of the best 2-men duos in the league, just under Davis’ spot with Holiday in league rankings. Mirotic and Davis: plus-12.3; Davis and Randle plus-5.9.
The Frazier/Moore Conundrum
Does Frazier’s talent allow him to be most productive as a starter? Perhaps, but what does that mean to push the ever excellent E’Twaun Moore to the bench? They’re each individually over plus-10 in combination with Davis, so, hey, either one is helping. How do they play with others? Jrue, Moore and AD are the 5th best commonly-used 3-man Pels lineup, and Moore is moreso in other productive 3-man units, but in his limited time Frazier has produced by pushing pace.
Assists and threes are an indicator of the Pelicans offense, and that was true again tonight. Jrue Holiday had eight assists and one longball; Moore had six dimes and three 3s; Frazier had seven and one, Randle had one and two. And, of course, AD had those career-best 9 assists and two threes. The Pels totaled 36 assists and 17 threes — and not surprisingly, both marks were season-highs.
Wow, can the Pelicans play the Mavericks again???
The Pels play the overachieving Memphis Grizzlies at home on Friday, December 7 at 7 p.m. I’ll have your recap about this against-the-grain, grinding Grizzlies gang.