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New Orleans Pelicans lose another winnable game as Luka Doncic gets the better of Jrue Holiday in Mavericks 123-116 victory

More positives again, but the W/L record stands at 0-2.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are still a ‘work in progress’ of putting this new regime together, but it’s caused them to now drop the first two games of the season during one of the toughest parts of this schedule.

On opening night at the Smoothie King Center, without 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, the New Orleans Pelicans fell 123-116 to the Dallas Mavericks. However, it wasn’t due to a lack of energy from the start.

In the first quarter, Brandon Ingram guided the offense while Derrick Favors established himself early in the paint, scoring a quick 10 points. New Orleans shot 72 percent from the field in the 41-point frame, assisting on 14 of its 18 makes. The team scored a prolific 28 points in the paint, but the dominance inside soon faded. In fact, the Pelicans only tallied 26 points in the paint for the remainder of the game.

Mavericks star Kristaps Porzingis started to heat up in the second quarter, as New Orleans hit a wall, and second-year guard Luka Doncic was right behind him. A 14-point lead at the end of the first was made a one-possession game in the next six minutes. Dallas went on to win the second quarter by a 45-23 margin, taking an eight-point advantage into the break.

The Pelicans backcourt just wasn’t able to limit the damage and a lot of that falls on the team’s captain. Jrue Holiday hasn’t come out of the gates on this new season as we would we have hoped and expected. Holiday went 0-for-5 in the second quarter, and point guard Lonzo Ball only made 1-of-3 in the same span. Holiday (2/11 FG, 0/3 3PT) and Ball — who scored 15 points but made only 3-of-12 behind the arc — also tied each other at -14 for team’s lowest plus/minus on the evening.

“I feel like we go through this every year,” Holiday said in postgame. “Especially with me. It’s just timing. New lineups, new situations, new team. So again, there’s always positives. In the last two games, we’re in it at the end. We’ll just go back to the film and see what we can do.”

It took a NAW-Jackson-Hart-Williams-Melli lineup late in the third quarter to make things interesting again. Kenrich Williams nailed a three and Frank Jackson followed that up with a deep perimeter jumper of his own. In the blink of an eye, the Pelicans were only down a shot entering the final twelve minutes. Well…that didn’t last very long at all.

The Mavericks generated an 8-0 run to start the fourth and triggered an early timeout from head coach Alvin Gentry after the deficit ballooned back to double digits after a pair of turnovers. Despite Ingram’s valiant effort to tie the game at 109 inside five minutes and bring it within three once again at 115-112, it wasn’t enough to slow down Doncic on the other end. With a difficult floater in the lane, a defensive rebound and a rafter-scraping three that went in off the glass, Doncic called checkmate on a 25-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double performance.

Porzingis ended the night with 24 points, four rebounds, three assists and five blocks. The Unicorn shot 8-of-17 from the field, but only went 2-of-7 while guarded by Brandon Ingram. Putting in work on both ends, Ingram finished with 25 points (10/20, 4/7 3PT) and eight boards.

Bottom line though, the Pelicans’ best player has to show up. Holiday admits part of his and the team’s sluggish performances stem from missing the dynamic abilities of Zion Williamson. But with the 19-year-old rookie out of action for what could be up to two months following meniscus surgery, someone must fill that void to get New Orleans over the top in the meantime. That someone has to be Holiday.

“He’s just got to get himself going,” said Gentry. “We’ve seen it before — and he will — but he hasn’t played very good the first two games. It’s not because he’s not trying. It’s just not clicking right now. We’ll continue and he’ll continue to work at it and he’ll hit his stride at some point, along with everybody else.”

Could a date with James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Saturday evening act as the much-needed elixir? We’ll soon find out. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back and staring an 0-3 start in the face, perhaps a little more adversity and facing one of his biggest rivals can snap Jrue Holiday quickly out of his funk and get the Pelicans into the win column.