The Pelicans should welcome the coming All-Star break, but before they get a chance to regroup for the final stretch run, New Orleans must first face the Dallas Mavericks.
The CJ McCollum transition has not gone as smoothly as hoped, with the Pelicans having won just once in four tries since trading for the shooting guard. Don’t blame CJ though. He’s been stellar offensively, carrying averages of 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 threes.
Care to guess who’s been hotter around the league? Luka Doncic. Since flipping Kristaps Porzingis to the Wizards, Doncic has set the world ablaze: 39.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 5.0 threes.
There’s no doubt that Herb Jones will be given the assignment to slow down the 6’7 Slovenian guard, but he’s going to need help.
“He can pass it, score it at all three levels,” Jones said in this morning’s shootaround. “He’s great. He has a great all around game. We have to make it super, super tough on him. We have to try and wear him down. I feel like that’ll give us the best chance to win if we go out and execute the game plan.”
It would behoove Willie Green to improve the defensive potential of the starting lineup by making a change, say replacing Devonte’ Graham and his shooting struggles with a stronger defender.
In their 107-91 December victory over the Mavericks, Garrett Temple, who started in place of an injured Josh Hart, shared responsibilities with Jones. The duo combined to hold Doncic to 21 points on 7-20 shooting.
It doesn’t seem probable that Green makes a change, electing to bring Graham off the bench for a first time this season. Thanks to the All-Star break, the Pelicans next game isn’t until Feb. 25. Having time to ponder and integrate a different player into the starting lineup has to be more appealing of an undertaking when time allows.
If that’s the case, pray for Herb. Doncic can not only pick apart defenses in any number of ways, he’s one of the most effective players at getting to the free throw line. The Pelicans odds of winning tonight go down significantly if Jones gets into foul trouble.
Another cause for concern, the Mavericks have been a fantastic defensive team since the Pels thrashed them on Dec. 3. Since that period, only the Boston Celtics have been stauncher in stopping opponents.
Trailing the Blazers by 1.5 games for 10th in the Western Conference standings, the Pelicans need to start putting wins on the board. Beating the Mavericks could prove a nice springboard into the post-All-Star slate of contests.
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (23-35) vs Dallas Mavericks (34-24)
When: February 17, 2022, 7:00 p.m.
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM
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