The Dallas Mavericks are playing some of their best basketball of the season.
Their next game is Friday night against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, who were playing their best basketball of the season until their last game.
The Mavericks have won three in a row and four of their last five after holding off the visiting Atlanta Hawks 118-117 on Wednesday.
“We’ve got three in a row,” said Luka Doncic, who had his NBA-leading seventh triple-double of the season (28 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists), “but we’re just getting started.”
Dallas’ defense made the difference as the Mavericks overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit. They had allowed 30 or more fourth-quarter points in each of their previous six games, but the Hawks scored 27 on 9-of-22 shooting. Atlanta had made 31 of 66 shots in the first three quarters.
“I was really proud of our fourth quarter,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “The first three quarters were pretty frustrating for everybody. But in the fourth quarter it was pure basketball. It was pure unselfishness offensively and pure grit defensively, and I was proud of the team the way they responded.”
Willie Cauley-Stein, who Carlisle had not played in the last two games, helped spur the fourth-quarter effort.
For the game, Cauley-Stein had 14 points (on 5-of-6 shooting) and six rebounds in 23 minutes.
“We keep improving with every game,” Cauley-Stein said.
The Pelicans had shown significant improvement during a four-game winning streak, but it ended in a 129-116 loss at Chicago on Wednesday night.
The Bulls, who raced to a 44-34 lead at the end of the first quarter, made a franchise-record 25 3-pointers (in 47 attempts).
“Their ball movement was incredible,” said forward Zion Williamson, who led New Orleans with 29 points. “The pace of their offense was great. Then they were also hitting shots. Their energy was just higher than ours. We can’t start games like that.”
The Pelicans, who were completing a back-to-back after a home victory against Houston on Tuesday, held an eight-point halftime lead before getting outscored 40-14 in the third quarter.
“We were a step slow on everything other than the second quarter,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Bad combination tonight of them being great and making shots and us being a step slow defensively.”
It wasn’t the first time New Orleans has had trouble defending 3-pointers. Last month, Utah made 21 3-pointers against them and Houston made 20. The game against Chicago was the eighth game in which the Pelicans allowed 18 or more 3-pointers.
The Pelicans did get a lift from rookie point guard Kira Lewis Jr., who scored a season-high 14 points on five-of-seven shooting.
“I love his mindset,” Van Gundy said. “I love his approach to the game. I just really love his mentality. I really look forward to watching his growth as the season goes on.”
New Orleans was scheduled to visit Dallas for the first meeting this season on Jan. 11, but that game was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Mavericks. Dallas swept the four-game series last season.
–Field Level Media