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Pelicans crushed 139-107 by Doncic, Mavericks

Like Grubb has said often in the past: Play the Pelicans, Set a Record!

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Wow. Maybe you secretly came in hopeful for another Herb Big D game, but all you got was Luka Doncic (28 points, 14 assists) walking him into the hoop over and over again.

Or maybe you thought helpful parts would come together like they have in the past 10 games (5-5 record), but all you got was a bunch of bricks in a quiet building.

Perhaps you saw Jonas Valanciunas make seven 3s and thought he’d be awesome again, but all you got was a bunch of zeroes when it mattered most.

As quickly as positive thoughts congealed in the brain matter of Pelican nation, they were thrust away by endless Mavericks buckets in a blowout loss Wednesday night at home.

Final: Dallas 139, New Orleans 107

Brandon Ingram had 29 points, and was 11-of-17 from the field.


Luka Doncic shot 9 of 11 in the first half, scoring 22 points and 10 assists; his play controlled the game and made the second half a laugher. The Mavs made all 11 2-point shots in the first quarter: That’s gotta be a record, among others set tonight. For the first half, Dallas shot 70%, 28-40 from the field, and 7-16 from 3; they had 18 assists, again, pretty much all thanks to Doncic. Down 67-46 at half, it never got any better for Pels fans.

Amazingly, Luka has looked slow and hobbled in recent games, but if there’s ever someone to spotlight for his lack of quickness, it’s him. First off, Doncic didn’t bring the ball up the floor each time. He’d often remain off ball, until he was fed on either wing below the free throw line extended. Any situation where he’d gather the ball with an advantage is one he wanted to take all the way to the hoop, using his giant body and impeccable control and ballhandling to reach the rim.

When he did handle it at the top, a classic Luka play is his snaking of high pick and rolls, where upon gathering the attention of the defensive big near the top of the key, he explodes backwards to release a high-arcing 3 from unlimited range. In pick-and-roll situations this year, Luka is second in the league in points scored per game (12.4) and in possessions used (13.1) and shoots 45%, 53% eFG.

Before tonight’s game, I’d say: Luka isolates, but not terribly well. He’s 10th in the league in frequency of his one-on-everyone plays, but is in fact way behind league leaders Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and James Harden. Luka’s raw FG% here is really low compared to others around him at just 38.2%, but he takes and makes plenty of 3s generally, so his eFG% is higher. But of note, Luka’s free throw frequency is under 10% in isos, way under guys like Joel Embiid, Harden, SGA, Giannis, and even Pascal Siakam ... in addition, Luka’s shooting fouled frequency is REALLY REALLY low at 4.7%, way below SGA, Harden, Julius Randle, Giannis (all from 12-19 percent each).

Then, he went out and scored 22 in a half with 10 assists, shooting 9-11 and 2 of 4 from 3.

Add in his creative and fearless mastery of passing angles learned from the School of LeBron, and we’re talking about a one-man offensive ‘best of’ compilation.


Um, what happened here? Jonas Valanciunas went from his career night in Los Angeles to one he’d like to forget against the Dallas Mavericks. He did pop off four 3-point attempts, making none. Was he daydreaming of the seven he made just 48 hours ago? JV had six points and five rebounds on the night.

Let’s assume this was a hangover game and he’ll be back when he’s got another chance at the same team on Friday.


What version of the Pelicans future do we see in the Dallas Mavericks?

The league’s shiniest toy, a dribble-heavy wing with A+ vision, may be questioning as a 22-year old. Our friends at Mavs Money Ball described aptly:

This roster — what is the vision? Where is this Mavericks team going? Hardaway is 29, Maxi Kleber is 29, Reggie Bullock is 30, Dwight Powell is 30, Finney-Smith is 28. The team owes one more first round pick to the Knicks in 2023, the 2020 draft returned zero useful pieces and Jalen Brunson is the only young player that feels like he could fetch anything worthwhile in a trade, yet he’s also one of the most important players on the team and feels indispensable.

Boy, oh, boy do Pelicans fans know the feeling. Anthony Davis’ outlandish hype outgrew his high-end production and he bolted to play second fiddle with LeBron... but early in his career, AD was surrounded by ‘young veterans’ meant to help support the team as it grew around the number 1 pick. To be fair, Luka is the ball-handling, creating type who can lift teammates more than a skinny power forward who doesn’t wanna play center.

Luka did sign an extension to take him through 2027, but as many fans and media have noted: players don’t do hold outs. Rather, it’s, ‘Give me the money now and if I’m upset in three years, we can discuss a trade then.’ So, of course Luka took the money and years... but how’s he gonna feel if the Mavs lose in the first round in coming seasons? Eh, now that I think about it, he’ll just have the coach ousted.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @trabeta.