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Jan 14, 2024 3:31 pm

Pelicans winning with depth while Mavericks show inconsistency

The New Orleans Pelicans and the Dallas Mavericks were both short-handed Saturday night.

The visiting Pelicans overcame the absence of Brandon Ingram (Achilles), CJ McCollum (ankle), Zion Williamson (rest) and Trey Murphy III (knee soreness) in a 118-108 victory against the host Mavericks, who played without Luka Doncic (ankle), Dante Exum (plantar) and Dereck Lively II (ankle).

Both teams hope to be closer to full strength when they meet again Monday afternoon in Dallas.

New Orleans was finishing a back-to-back, having lost at Denver 125-113 on Friday night. The team didn’t arrive at its hotel in Dallas until 4:30 a.m. Saturday.

“No matter what time we get in, so long as there’s a basketball on the court, we’re gonna hoop,” said rookie guard Jordan Hawkins, who led the Pelicans with a season-high 34 points against Dallas. “I had a good opportunity to play, so I had to take it.”

New Orleans coach Willie Green said Hawkins, whose 3-point ability has mitigated Murphy’s absence, “was terrific” and added that the youngster’s “game-plan discipline was off the charts.” Hawkins made six 3-pointers and added four assists and two steals.

Hawkins had plenty of help as six teammates also scored in double figures.

“We’ve got a ton of depth,” Green said. “It was displayed (against the Mavericks) and it says a lot about this team, the mental toughness to be able to get in late and not use it as an excuse.”

New Orleans broke a tie with Dallas for first place in the Southwest Division and took a 2-1 lead in the season series that concludes Monday.

The Mavs have been wildly inconsistent of late. They followed a victory against Western Conference-leading Minnesota by losing by 17 to short-handed Memphis. They bounced back with a 128-124 victory against a Knicks team that had won five in row even though Doncic, Exum and Lively were sidelined for that game, too. Then came the loss to the Pelicans.

“It’s the NBA. You got to show up every day,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “We were in this position against Memphis and we responded the next game.

“There’s going to be ups and downs. Every team goes through it. Every team goes through injuries. You put your best foot forward and you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. But you’re going to learn about who you are. You can’t hide.”

Amid all the absences, the Mavs did get back forward Maxi Kleber, one of their top reserves, after a two-month absence due to a toe injury. He had two points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 11 minutes Saturday.

The Pelicans have won eight of their last nine road games and are 3-1 on a road trip that ends Monday. The Mavericks are 4-2 on a homestand that concludes Monday.

“It’s basketball,” Dallas forward Derrick Jones Jr. said. “It doesn’t matter who is in front of you. You’ve got to play the game the same way. … We just got to give a little more, play a little harder.”

–Field Level Media

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