The New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks are tied for first place in the Southwest Division.
That tie will be broken when they face each other Saturday night in the first of two head-to-head matchups in three nights in Dallas.
The tie arose after the Pelicans lost Friday night at Denver, 125-113, which was only New Orleans’ second defeat in eight games and ended a seven-game road winning streak.
“It definitely gives a playoff feel playing the same team twice,” forward Zion Williamson, who led New Orleans with 30 points against the Nuggets, said of the upcoming matchup.
The Pelicans began their five-game trip with lopsided victories at Sacramento (133-100) on Sunday and Golden State (141-105) on Wednesday before the Nuggets scored their 12-point win.
The first game against the Mavericks will start less than 24 hours after the end of the game against the Nuggets.
“We’ve still got to play the game no matter what — late, early, whatever,” said New Orleans center Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 17 points in Denver. “We’ve got to go out there and play hard.”
The Mavericks are 4-1 on a homestand that will conclude with the two games against the Pelicans. Dallas is coming off one of its most impressive performances of the season, a 128-124 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday.
That snapped the Knicks’ five-game winning streak, two nights after the Mavericks endured a 17-point loss to the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies.
“In competition, you’re going to get embarrassed sometimes,” said Kyrie Irving, who had a season-high 44 points and 10 assists against New York. “That’s part of the NBA level of competition. Some games, you’re not going to play up to the level you want. The big question after that is how you respond. I think we responded.”
The Mavericks played without three starters — Luka Doncic (ankle) and Dante Exum (foot), both of whom have been ruled out of Saturday’s game, and Dereck Lively II, who is questionable (ankle).
“These are the games when you’re being tested,” Irving said. “So I think we grew as a team.”
Dallas saw a 20-point fourth-quarter lead shrink to one point against the Knicks in the final minute. The Mavericks got three offensive rebounds on one possession, which ended with Josh Green’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left.
“Last game wasn’t who we are as a team,” Green said. “We all came in way too soft. We need to be the team that hits first. If we’re hitting first, it’s very hard to play against a team with Luka and Kyrie. So it’s up to us to make sure we make that hit. We can be a physical team.”
The Pelicans and Mavericks split two games in New Orleans on Nov. 12 and 14, with Dallas winning the first game, 136-124, and New Orleans winning the second, 131-110.
Irving scored 35 and Doncic had 30 in the Mavericks’ victory, but Irving had 17 and Doncic 16 in their loss. Brandon Ingram and rookie Jordan Hawkins led the Pelicans with 25 points each in their victory.
–Field Lecvel Media
Julian Reese poured in 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and Maryland clamped down on host Rutgers for a 63-46 win Sunday afternoon in Piscataway, N.J. The Terrapins (15-13, 7-10 Big…
A single day off between games can be a blessing and a curse. It certainly can prepare you for the NCAA Tournament if you’re headed that way. But your mindset…
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the visiting Orlando Magic due to an injury to his left pinkie finger. Young, 25, averages a…
Arthur Kaluma, Kansas State look to topple West Virginia
Hawks G Trae Young out vs. Magic
Surging Magic take on Hawks, look to complete 3-game road sweep
Top 25 roundup: Wake Forest holds on, stuns No. 8 Duke