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Pelicans stumble early, fail to overtake Mavericks late in 127-117 loss

Luka Doncic posted his ninth triple-double of the season

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

One can’t be overly upset about an expected loss, but there was an opportunity to steal the win in Dallas.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back without their top three scorers, the New Orleans Pelicans started incredibly slowly, scoring only 15 points in the first quarter, en route to a 127-117 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Pelicans never found the right rhythm to make things really interesting with enough time left on the clock. Although they threatened to trim the deficit to single digits multiple times in the second half, they never got over that hump until there was only 1:07 left in regulation.

A big part of the disappointing story was the 13 misses from the free throw line. In fact, New Orleans missed 10 of their first 13 attempts from the charity stripe.

The other parts included getting into early foul trouble, converting on very few 3-point attempts (5-29) and not discovering an answer for one of the best individual talents in the game.

Credit the MVP candidate. Luka Doncic made all the right plays. He lived at the free throw line in the first half and then carved up the Pelicans in numerous pick-and-rolls out of halftime. The fifth-year man finished with his ninth triple-double of the season with a line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Christian Wood was the beneficiary on a number of those Luka pick-and-rolls, lighting up the New Orleans defense for 28 points and four 3-balls. The Pelicans either gave him too much space on the perimeter or got stuck in no man’s land and allowed easy scores at the rim over the top of their defense.

Jonas Valanciunas led the Pelicans with 25 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Willie Green decided to have the offense flow through his starting center much more often in the second half and the strategy worked. He took major advantage of mismatches against Wood multiple times.

Naji Marshall wound up with another career high in finishing with 24 points. That’s the third time in the last two weeks that he’s set a new career high.

Replacing CJ McCollum in the starting lineup, Jose Alvarado had 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Herb Jones saw the ball go through the hoop six times from the field in scoring 16 points. He also had six rebounds and five steals.

Perhaps the most pleasant development in the loss was Kira Lewis Jr. He showed off another gear that no one else possessed on the floor. He totaled 12 points in 13 minutes and looked really good after checking into the game during his first stint.

Once the offense finally started to hum about midway through the second quarter, the defense failed to shut things down enough on the other end. That’s how you wind up winning the last three quarters by small margins.

Up next, the Pelicans will head to the nation’s capital where they’ll face the Washington Wizards on Monday evening. It’s high time to add another road victory, so a friendly injury report would go a long way.

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.