The Mavericks have won the first three games against the Pelicans as they try to complete a sweep of the season series. Those victories have come by an average margin of 25 points.
Dallas would like to have a similar feel-good performance after closing a 2-2 road trip with a 109-107 loss at the lowly Chicago Bulls on Monday.
The Mavericks fell to 2-8 in games decided by three points or fewer and 5-15 in games decided by five points or fewer.
All-Star guard Luka Doncic returned from a one-game absence due to a sprained left thumb and had 23 points and nine assists, but made just 1-of-8 3-pointers.
“(The thumb is) going to take some time to be (well),” Doncic said, “but it’s getting better, for sure.”
Though Doncic returned, the Mavs played without two other starters – Kristaps Porzingis (left knee injury recovery) and Seth Curry (lower back tightness). Jalen Brunson (right shoulder sprain) also missed the game.
Dallas led 57-48 at halftime, but were outscored 33-17 in its lowest-scoring third quarter of the season.
“The third quarter was obviously our downfall,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “They came out of the locker room with great intensity, and we didn’t respond well to it.”
Dallas lost for the 10th time this season in a game in which it led by at least 10 points.
“In this league, if you don’t continue to pound on that lead, you give them opportunities and chance after chance, you wake up their confidence,” guard Courtney Lee said. “Then they feel like they can play with anybody.”
The Mavs haven’t allowed the Pelicans to wake up their confidence in any of the first three meetings, but this is the first time rookie forward Zion Williamson will face Dallas.
Williamson had 25 points, his 12th straight game with 20-plus, but it wasn’t enough as New Orleans lost to visiting Minnesota 139-134 on Tuesday night. Jrue Holiday scored 27 and Lonzo Ball had 26, but the Pelicans couldn’t slow down the Timberwolves, who had eight double-figure scorers.
“We did not guard,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They had 72 points in the paint. We just didn’t do a good job defensively.”
Gentry said the Pelicans let “a golden opportunity slip away” as they fell farther back in their uphill climb to claim the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They are four games behind eighth-place Memphis and have to also move past Sacramento, San Antonio and Portland.
“Today was a must win,” Ball said. “Now we just have to make it up.”
The Pelicans made just 9-of-25 shots in the fourth quarter, one game after making 5-of-18 fourth-quarter shots in a 122-114 home loss to the Lakers.
Gentry said Williamson will play against the Mavericks on the back end of New Orleans’ first set of back-to-back games since the No. 1 overall pick made his season debut Jan. 22 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
–Field Level Media