Kyrie Irving, Mavericks visit plummeting Pelicans
The Dallas Mavericks didn't take full advantage of their recent homestand. But at least they finished on a winning note.
The New Orleans Pelicans desperately need to take advantage of their four-game homestand that begins Wednesday night against the Mavericks.
Both teams are spinning their wheels in the middle of the heavily congested battle for spots in the Western Conference play-in tournament and playoffs.
Dallas broke even on its season-high six-game homestand when it held off Utah 120-116 on Tuesday night.
The Mavericks haven't meshed as quickly as they had hoped after acquiring Kyrie Irving and teaming him with Luka Doncic to form one of the more explosive scoring tandems in the NBA.
But, on Tuesday night, Irving scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Doncic finished with 29 as Dallas improved to 3-5 in games in which both of them have played.
"He loves the moment," Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said of Irving. "He loves to win. He loves to help his team win."
Dallas won a tight ballgame after its three losses on the homestand came by a total of nine points.
"I just love the challenge," Irving said. "Just seeing where guys' legs are, seeing where they are mentally, just seeing how many teams stick to their game plan."
The Pelicans have lost six of their last seven games and 17 of their last 22 after a 123-108 loss at Sacramento on Monday night.
"We have to win some games," said center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned from a two-game absence due to a left calf bruise to score 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. "It's not going to be easy. It's going to be tough. But we have to play better."
New Orleans played well in the first half against the Kings and the score was tied at 59 at halftime. But Sacramento switched to a zone defense in the third quarter, which threw off the Pelicans' offense. The Kings outscored New Orleans 38-20 in the period and coasted to the victory even without injured leading scorer D'Aaron Fox.
"They threw a different look at us, and we allowed it to stagnate us offensively," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "It fueled their opportunities offensively. We missed shots. We turned the ball over a little too much."
Green has been trying to get his players to attempt a minimum of 35 3-pointers per game to open up opposing defenses and create more room to operate. The Pelicans were 11 of 29 from beyond the arc against Sacramento.
"(We're) just not patient, not getting organized," Green said. "Things we know and things we are capable of doing. We have done it the last few games. (Against the Kings) we allowed it to mess our rhythm up. Then we have to make shots when they go to zone. I thought we settled just a bit."
New Orleans, which is 20-11 at home, will be playing just its second home game in 26 days.
The Pelicans will try to even the season series, in which the home team has won each of the previous meetings. New Orleans prevailed 113-111 on Oct. 25 and Dallas won 127-117 on Jan. 7 and 111-106 on Feb. 2.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 8, 2023