Over the span of just the last four days, the New Orleans Pelicans have dropped from sole possession of 9th in the Western Conference — and trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by two games for the final playoff spot — to 12th and sitting four games out of the enviable spot. A loss to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers was understandable, but last night’s defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves was not. And now the Dallas Mavericks await, a formidable challenge on a number of fronts.
The first thing that comes to mind about tonight’s showcase on ESPN is that it’ll come on the second night of a back-to-back for the Pelicans. The Mavericks rested on Tuesday, but they were involved in a back-to-back the previous two days. Perhaps the most interesting fact though, New Orleans has posted a 5-3 record on second nights of back-to-backs this season. A positive facet of possessing young legs on the roster?
The problem with getting excited about this statistic, however, is that the Mavericks have owned the Pelicans, leading the season series 3-0 — which includes a 46-point thrashing on December 7. As we’ve witnessed, New Orleans has failed to solve the riddle of poor matchups around the league, with familiarity failing to offer any solutions. The Pelicans have already been swept by several conference teams in the Lakers and Thunder.
The biggest obstacle though is that the Mavericks are a good team. Above .500 teams have given the Pelicans grief as New Orleans has but three wins in thirteen tries against them since the start of the 2020 calendar year. Plus, don’t overlook Luka Doncic. His efficiency has slipped a bit recently, but he’s as adept at controlling a game as LeBron or Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Pelicans have struggled mightily with good-sized playmakers all season.
Although Kristaps Porzingis missed the Mavericks last contest, he is expected to play on Wednesday. He sat against the Chicago Bulls a few days ago because the contest was Dallas’ second game in as many nights — Kristaps is being held out of appearing in both ends of back-to-backs. Expect for him to be well-rested and he’s been playing well for about the five weeks now, including a stellar showing against the Wolves his last time in action.
Kristaps Porzingis joins Dirk as the only players in Mavs history to post a 35 pts, 10 reb and 5 blk statline pic.twitter.com/l1rAH0e64R— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 1, 2020
Before we write off all hope for New Orleans to emerge with a victory, there are several scant positives. Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson are all coming off performances where they played superbly on offense. Each player scored 24 points or more on better than 50% shooting from the field against the Timberwolves. Perhaps more importantly though, the expectations is that Zion will be available to play in his first back-to-back.
Gentry says Zion WILL play back to backs.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) March 3, 2020
Medical team will monitor what he can and cannot do minutes-wise. Some decisions still to be made on that end.
Outside of JJ Redick, the Pelicans should have all hands on deck. That’s good; however, as we learned against Minnesota, New Orleans will need to do more than just put on a uniform. They’ll need to show plenty of resistance on the side of the floor they were so glaringly absent on about 24 hours ago.
Let’s geaux, Pels...we hope!
Where To Watch/Listen
What: New Orleans Pelicans (26-35) at Dallas Mavericks (37-25)
Where: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, TX
When: Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 8:30 PM
Watch: FSNO, ESPN
Listen: ESPN Radio 100.3 FM