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NBA Preview: Pelicans get another shot at Mavericks and 20-year-old MVP candidate Luka Doncic

New Orleans looks to bounce back against the league’s most electric walking triple-double. Can they pull off the upset at home?

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pelican fans should understand the routine by now.

Fall behind early, watch the momentum swing as New Orleans charges back, only to fall apart offensively during the last five minutes.

It’s a heartbreaking way to lose. It’s arguably the worst way to lose. Rather than suffer once at the end of the game, we get treated to a double-digit deficit every first quarter eliciting a reaction not all too dissimilar to this one.

Then, jubilation strikes as the team finds its rhythm, surging back late and even seizing control of the unthinkable — a late game lead!

Alas, again, it’s all for naught.

At least this time round, basketball fans will be treated to one of the brightest new faces playing out of any spectrum of what we deem possible for one such his age.

Beware, this section contains fan girling.

Luka. Freaking. Doncic.

The Slovenian swingman is putting together unrealistic numbers at just 20 years of age, all the while sinking game-sealing triples right in the face of The King.

Luka Doncic doesn’t have the physicality of LeBron, the size of a Giannis, the lightning quick release of Steph Curry, but he can decelerate his body like none other than James Harden. Plus his intellect surpasses any in history at his age.

This is on full display in the pick-and-roll, where Doncic may arguably already be the best ever. As Dallas’ primary weapon, he scores at a rate of 1.31 points per runner and 1.5 when he gets all the way to the rim, all wildly above the league average.

As a faciliator he can manipulate the defense in ways no one else can. For basketball nerds who want a full breakdown of what he does to put his primary on-ball defenders ‘in jail,’ check out this excellent article from the Athletic.

Aside from being a cold-blooded killer with a crazy season statline (third in the NBA in scoring, second in assists, 17th in rebounding), Doncic also seems like a pretty cool guy.

But Doncic isn’t the only positive part of their 13-6 squad. The Dallas Mavericks are the highest-rated offensive team in the NBA and it’s due to its leader, Mavs GM Donnie Nelson.

Kristaps Porzingis has yet to find his shot, but he’s still putting up second-tier star like numbers (17.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks). He has been relegated to a spot up shooter and post man in this offense as he has yet to find his true form, but he’s still capable of scoring at any time and is an aggressive shot blocker.

The Mavericks are the league’s sixth-best rebounding team and third-best three-point shooting team. Defensively, they give up points in the paint (19th) and in transition (26th). They’re the very best at ball security but just 29th in creating additional opportunities for themselves.

Based on these numbers, we can assume that teams capitalize in transition off of the Mavericks’ three-point shot attempts (3rd). The Pelicans must make a point to rebound quickly and push the ball down the floor.

Injury report

More bad news for the Pelicans. In addition to remaining without Darius Miller and Zion Williamson, the Pelicans will once again be without starting center Derrick Favors and power forward Kenrich Williams. The Pelicans have had no luck this season on the injury front despite the overhauled strength and conditioning team while teams like the Dallas Mavericks have no reported injuries.

Keys to the Game

  • Push the pace
  • Dominate the paint
  • Contest and limit three-point shooters

The Pelicans face the Mavericks twice in their next three contests and could certainly use a couple of victories to climb back to respectability before Zion’s return in the next week or so. To do so, they’ll need to start closing games better and that starts on the offensive end.

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (6-14) vs Dallas Mavericks (13-6)

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 6:30 PM CDT.

How: TNT

For more on the Pelicans season to date, check out our boys latest episode of the Bird Calls, featuring David Grubb, Oleh Kosel, Chris Connor and Kevin Barrios!

Let’s geaux, Pels!