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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans hope third time’s a charm against Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks

Can they put an end to their seven-game losing streak?

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

The New Orleans Pelicans roll into Dallas Saturday looking to end a seven game losing streak against the Mavericks. Saturday’s matchup will be the second time the two have faced off this week and the third of the season.

If New Orleans is to end their streak — currently the second longest losing streak next to the New York Knicks — there are several recurring issues they’ll need to address.

An undermanned frontcourt won’t make things easy as Dallas will look to feed off of New Orleans’ interior struggles from rebounding to rim protection. And oh yeah, that Luka Doncic guy is a handful and fresh off winning his first NBA Player of the Month two days ago. Expect for the Pelicans to throw all their bag of tricks at the MVP candidate, but here are few factors to keep eyes on as they try to pull off the upset.

Consistency for Lonzo Ball

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

There’s not a soul living that would disagree with the fact that starting point guard Lonzo Ball’s performance against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday was his best of the season. In fact, there’s an argument for it being on of the best for his career.

Ball wasn’t perfect as he committed seven turnovers — a thing that plagued a lot of Pelicans, but his consistency fighting off old habits, playing with rhythm, and penetrating the defense brought happy tears to many eyes.

Lonzo Ball’s gifts are clear as a passer and from an IQ perspective, if confidence and adjustments on the fly can follow, so will consistency. Keep an eye on if Ball is able to continue his efforts from Thursday and his mindset behind it. If so, that would be an absolutely huge development for this team.

Frontcourt troubles

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Pelicans deeply miss Derrick Favors as they equally miss Zion Williamson. Neither are saviors but they would immediately help the team’s rebounding, communication, and rim protection. During Favors’ healthy stretch, the Pelicans started to patch things together across the board. Opponent drives became increasingly difficult, and due to his efforts alone on occasion, the Pelicans became a better rebounding team.

Without him they’ve been forced to rely on Nicolo Melli, Jahlil Okafor, and electric rookie Jaxson Hayes. Hayes has received the bulk of the minutes and has been a fun ride. But his overall lack of experience, strength, and fundamentals has brought struggles on the floor that Hayes won’t be able to fix over night. However, he’ll need to be a better factor on the boards and find a way to stay out of foul trouble if the Pelicans want to keep this one against the Mavericks close.

New Orleans will need several other elements to go their way too. From three-point shooting efficiency, to ball security, to some kind of answer for Luka Doncic after Suns star Devin Booker eclipsed 44 points on Thursday.

The Mavericks bench dominated the Pelicans reserves 53 to 28 in their Tuesday matchup which resulted in a majority of Mavericks starters not even needing to see 4th quarter minutes. But if New Orleans can start with energy and keep momentum, and key players can continue to provide adjustments, we all know NOLA has the talent to leave Dallas with a victory. As we’ve learned however 22 games in, talent alone isn’t enough for the Pelicans to win games.

Geaux Pels!

Where To Watch/Listen

What: New Orleans Pelicans (6-16) vs Dallas Mavericks (15-6)

Where: American Airlines Arena

When: Saturday, December 7th, 2019 1:00 PM CST

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, Fox Sports Southwest