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NBA Preview: Pelicans need to make amends for record-setting loss to Mavericks

And Zion Williamson is back in the news for negative reasons

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Was soreness in Zion Williamson’s surgically repaired right foot partially to blame for the lackluster performance by the New Orleans Pelicans against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday?

In case you missed the breaking news, Williamson didn’t partake in yesterday’s practice because of a mild setback.

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Williamson was supposed to participate in his first full practice on Thursday but was held out because of the soreness he had been experiencing in the past few days. While not a sharp pain, the soreness has persisted. The team does not believe it will be a major issue moving forward, but they are proceeding with caution.

While it’s undoubtedly dispiriting to hear that Williamson is dealing with discomfort to the point of needing to dial down his activity level for the time being, one has to wonder if it played a part in the 139-107 loss — the soreness was discovered before the matchup against Dallas.

The Pelicans allowed a franchise-worst 68.7 FG% to an opponent. A number of those scores shouldn’t have come so easily despite Luka Doncic setting an MVP tone early. The Pelicans normally bounce back within games after bad stretches, but that didn’t happen.

Regardless of whether the Zion news had an effect, New Orleans has had more than enough time to ponder it. That along with a thoroughly disappointing showing their last time out on a basketball court in front of fans.

Not only did Doncic dissect the Pelicans’ defense, everyone had a turn. New Orleans failed to respond well. Fortunately, they’ll have a chance to atone for it immediately.

“I spoke to the guys in the locker room about it,” Willie Green said after Wednesday’s loss. “That’s the beauty of being in the NBA. It’s a quick turnaround. We get to go Dallas and play these guys again. Look, we don’t like what happened tonight on our home floor, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

With Doncic completely dominating Herb Jones 1-on-1, then dismantling double-teams with the pass, the task obviously won’t be easy. This is especially true if Josh Hart misses the game again. His prospects of rejoining teammates, though, sound improved.

“He felt better this morning,” Green said after yesterday’s practice. “We’re hopeful. We need all the guys that we can have healthy and on the floor. We want those guys back.”

So, just how can the Pelicans slow Doncic down?

“Just bring the defensive intensity, try to continue to wear him down picking him up full court,” Brandon Ingram said in Wednesday’s postgame. “I think we have to have guys on the backline just talking and being in the right spots, and try to figure out a way to funnel him into the paint of whatever it is and game plan for it.”

Whichever game plan gets selected, the Pelicans need to show they took exception to getting embarrassed on their home court. Eight losses in their last nine matchups against these Mavericks demands a different outcome as well.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (6-18) at Dallas Mavericks (11-9)

When: December 3, 2021, 7:30 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

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 @OlehKosel.