The hype was in before the 125-118 loss to the Dallas Mavericks: a newer, longer Pelicans starting 5 was taking the court at tip-off for the first time.
That’s newly-acquired CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, and Jonas Valanciunas.
Let’s get through this first quarter ... at the under-6 minute timeout, the Pels were down just four points and not particularly shooting well. They had already missed 11 shots, but grabbed seven of those rebounds and were able to pick up some scoring that way.
Does the new lineup account for this? Perhaps. Simply saying “they’re big” doesn’t necessarily mean “they’ll rebound.” It was something to monitor ... then, all the sudden, the Mavericks made another 3. And another. And Luka Doncic was hotttttttt.
Before you know it, the stats read out:
Dallas: 14 of 20 field goals; 9 of 12 from 3 (!!!); 8/11 FT; only one turnover ... therefore: 45-27 Mavericks.
But honestly, watch the video. There’s some special stuff in here.
Lighting it up from downtown pic.twitter.com/7ZgxjtDF2O— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 18, 2022
That’s all to say, there are defensive mistakes here. CJ goes braindead at least once, Herb was slow or coming to double from a bad spot on the floor, etc., but this is premier shot making.
Doncic finished the first frame with 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists. IN A QUARTER. He’d finish with 49 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists, despite going 2-of-9 in the 4th, and two VERY LATE missed free throws to get to 50/51. Just about a week ago he had 28 in a quarter when he had 51 vs. LAC.
Of course, there’s three more quarters
It gets to an 8-point game with under two minutes left in the first half when Jaxson Hayes collects a creative pass from Ingram—we’re seeing more and more of this from BI—and he collected and and-1! Then, moments later, bam, he’s out with four (!!!) fouls. But the first half stat sheet for Jaxson, wow: 17 points and six rebounds, 6-8 field goals, 5-5 free throws. Interesting. Verrrrry interesting. (He’d finish the game with 18.)
Then: Luka hits a stepback at the halftime buzzer, and suddenly, the lead has expanded again. But it’s still just 71-58. Luka roasted and toasted every Pel in his vicinity and screamed after a half-court generated two-handed dunk when he drove by Devonte’ Graham. He had 45 points after 3 and it was looking bad for Pels fans down 105-81.
Then CJ, Herb and finally some Mavs misses sparked a run.
Tony Snell, floor spacer and active defender, became the go-to 5th starter, leaving Jax off the floor, and they started using speed and early shots to get back in the game. CJ got hot and danced and hit 3s off long, laborious runs around picks ... it was good to perk up those desperate Pels fans, but the run would sputter out as final attempts to get to one or two possession games failed.
CJ finished the night with some sloppy turnovers—the final few minutes was a tired end to a long game for all—but his footwork, shotmaking, and aggressiveness showed. It was 38 for him tonight, 7-10 from 3. JV finished with 16 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists in ultra-efficient 33 minutes. BI had 12 points, five rebounds, eight assists.
The Mavs finished the night with 19 made 3s; early shot-making by Finney-Smith, Brunson, and Kleiber only added to an All-Time Great 3-quarter game from Luka.
Hmm Stat of the Night
Somehow, Garrett Temple managed a team-worst +/- of -23 in his 17:31. Luka was really hot when he saw GT and Jax in front of him. Would Jose Alvarado have helped? Or Trey Murphy III?
We’ll see next time on #sunspelicans after the All Star Break!