It was also the Pelicans seventh loss in their last eight games against the Mavs.
The scenario was similar: an early double-digit lead, the loss of that lead, competitive moments followed by a series of mistakes, and ultimately, another stinging defeat.
After winning the first quarter, the Pelicans were outscored in each of the final three.
Jonas Valanciunas collected his ninth double-double in a row, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Hart scored a season-high 22, to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
Luka Doncic led Dallas with a game-high 25 points, with five boards, and five assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson both scored 17, with Kristaps Porzingis and Reggie Bullock adding another 12 points each.
Head coach Willie Green was encouraged by his team’s effort, as they played once again without the services of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Herbert Jones.
“I thought they went out and played extremely hard,” said Green. “We executed the gameplan according to how we wanted to. They just made that run where it got up to, I think, 20 [or] 22 points, something like that and we fought our way back in, [but] just didn’t have enough to finish the game out.”
The starting unit was game, out scoring the Dallas starters 82-66, but the Pelicans were once again undone by their reserves.
Dallas got 42 points from its bench. The Pelicans got 10.
Green continues to take responsibility for the performance of his second team, and will look for ways to get something, anything from it.
“I’ve got to do a better job of trying to put those guys in an environment and situation they can be successful in,” he said. “We’ve seen good games from Kira [Lewis Jr.], we’ve seen a really solid night from Jaxson [Hayes], we’ve seen Naji [Marshall] and Trey [Murphy III] have solid nights, so I’ve got to do a better job of trying to help our bench out.”
The Pelicans opened the game strongly, spurred by Hart’s energetic play on both ends of the floor.
Hart, giving up nearly a foot in height to Kristaps Porzingis, applied pressure on the big man by attacking the basket in half court and transition. On defense, he pushed Porzingis out of the post, limiting his touches and keeping him on the perimeter.
Hart and Valanciunas combined for 13 of New Orleans’ first 27 points as the Pelicans built a 27-16 lead with just over one minute to play in the opening period.
Exiled to the bench in the loss to Golden State, Jaxson Hayes was given a reprieve by Willie Green, and provided the Pels with an early jolt off the bench.
His first touch of the game was an offensive rebound and put back dunk of a Hart miss. Hayes scored eight of his 10 points during the Pelicans’ opening flurry.
But the cracks were already starting to show as Porzingis hit back-to-back three-pointers on the Mavs’ last two possessions, cutting the 11-point advantage down to five heading into the second quarter.
The lead was completely gone just one minute into the second period when Porzingis completed a three-point play.
New Orleans would never take the lead again.
The game was still close at the half, with the Pelicans trailing by just four. They were able to tie the score multiple times, but the Mavericks had an answer each time.
After a Nickeil Alexander-Walker three-pointer tied the score at 64, Dallas closed the third quarter on a 14-5 run, pushing the Mavericks to a nine point lead heading into the fourth.
The run continued into the fourth, and the Pelicans found themselves down 22 with eight minutes to play.
From there, it was all over but for the final margin.
At 1-10, the Pelicans are entering dangerous territory. The NBA is not a forgiving league. Hart, one of the veterans of this group understands that better than most.
“Those guys are young, a lot of them are in their first or second years, but the thing about this league is that we got to grow up fast,” he said. “We got to push the pace, and that’s something with them, especially with their youth, we got to focus on getting stops, and then once we get stops, with their pace and talent and athleticism, playing on the break and in transition, that’s what we want to do. We know what it was and we got to hit the drawing board on Wednesday.”
On Wednesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Smoothie King Center, as the Pelicans begin a three-game homestand.
The Thunder are young, but have gotten off to a 3-6 start that includes two wins over the Los Angeles Lakers.
At some point, it doesn’t matter who is on the floor, the New Orleans Pelicans just have to get a win.
For themselves, and for a fan base that is constantly suffering through the growing pains of a franchise that never seems to grow up.
Time to draw the line. Time to make a stand.