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Short-handed Pelicans must corral Luka Doncic and Mavericks’ 3-point shooters

Dallas has been New Orleans’ nemesis. Time to change that tune.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans will be without their leader on Tuesday in a matchup against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

Brandon Ingram entered concussion protocols yesterday, stemming from a hard collision with Naji Marshall on Sunday evening.

The news, though, could worsen sometime before tip-off.

Zion Williamson (right posterior hip/low back contusion) and Herb Jones (right knee hyperextension) are listed as questionable on the injury report. A determination on their availability could come either during the morning shootaround or immediately after undergoing pregame workouts.

Depending on how short-handed the Pelicans are, Willie Green could be forced to go deep into his bench.

It’s logical that Trey Murphy replaces Ingram’s scoring in the starting lineup. If required, it also makes sense to insert Naji Marshall for Jones. The biggest tossup is who might step in for Williamson if he can’t go. Perhaps Jaxson Hayes, who started a number of games at the 4 last season.

In addition, Dyson Daniels and/or Garrett Temple could be pressed into duty as part of the rotation off the bench.

Everyone who takes the floor, of course, will know the defensive priorities: make life miserable for Luka and prevent the Mavericks from enjoying good looks behind the 3-point line.

Doncic is a true MVP candidate. The 23-year-old is second in the league in scoring at 33.5 points per game, while also averaging 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists. The 3-point accuracy has been off so far (31.6%), but he’s on pace for career bests in field goal percentage inside the arc (59.3 FG%) and free throw percentage (94.4%).

The Pelicans, as many fans probably know, have struggled to beat Doncic when he’s been in uniform, winning only four of 14 meetings; however, they’ve only knocked off Luka and the Mavericks once since the Slovenian’s rookie season.

In their last meeting (2/17/2022), Doncic dropped a line of 49 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and seven 3s in a 125-118 Dallas victory.

For those wondering, that’s the second highest point total of Doncic’s career, with a 51-point outburst against the Clippers (2/10/2022) topping the list.

Slowing Doncic down enough is a chore in and of itself but the Pelicans must also account for the Mavericks 3-point shooting.

Similar to the Doncic nightmares, I’m sure a lot of folks remember the 143-130 loss that involved Dallas making a franchise-record 25 threes.

The Mavericks have gotten off to a good start this season from 3-point range, making an average of 15.5 threes a game on 41.9% shooting. Not only do the Pelicans have to be mindful of Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith can all singe the nets.

Unlike the Lakers, the Mavericks have done a wonderful job of surrounding one of the most dominant players in the NBA with a slew of floor spacers. How well the Pelicans prevent both Doncic and his 3-point bombing teammates from wrecking havoc will play a big part in deciding the outcome — even if New Orleans is missing a key player or two.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (2-1) vs Dallas Mavericks (1-1)

When: October 25, 2022, 6:30 p.m. CT

Where to watch: TNT

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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.