Josh Hart shoots a layup at Dallas, with Luka Doncic defending nearby

Pelicans shootaround update: Josh Hart questionable, as NOLA seeks lineup continuity

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

In its search for lineup continuity this season, New Orleans has never been able to use the same starting group for more than five straight games, largely due to separate-timeframe injury absences by Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones and Devonte’ Graham. Those four players – along with every-night starting center Jonas Valanciunas – seemed to be hitting their collective stride over a recent four-game stretch as New Orleans beat Washington, Utah and the Clippers, but Hart was sidelined Wednesday by left knee soreness. Things went poorly in the first of two straight games this week vs. Dallas, which raced to an early lead and never looked back, prevailing 139-107. It was easily the Mavericks’ largest margin of victory in 2021-22.

Hart was listed as questionable on Thursday’s official injury report, ahead of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. rematch in Dallas between the Southwest Division rivals.

Other notes:

Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is now listed as doubtful to play in Friday’s game. Porzingis was listed as questionable to play Wednesday, but that status was due to an ankle sprain. Dallas reserve guard Frank Ntilikina (calf) is also listed as questionable to play tonight, while center Willie Cauley-Stein (personal) has been ruled out of Friday’s game. …

New Orleans won two of three games on its most recent road trip, after starting the season just 1-9 in away games.

DALLAS SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 15 (108.6)

Defensive efficiency rank: 21 (109.4)

Net rating: 21 (-0.8)

Pace: 26 (97.04)

Streak: Won 1

Go-to guy: New Orleans beat Dallas three times in the four games Luka Doncic played during his 2018-19 rookie season, but since then the Pelicans have come up empty, dropping all eight head-to-head matchups. Doncic continued his stellar performance against the Crescent City on Wednesday, keeping the New Orleans defense off balance by dominating one-on-one matchups (28 points, 11/16 shooting) and finding teammates for open shots (14 assists, one shy of Doncic’s season high).

On the rise: He’s been cold from three-point range lately, but otherwise Porzingis is in the midst of a strong stretch, averaging 19.4 points over his past five games and shooting 49 percent overall, despite going just 3/22 on treys over the same span. The 7-foot-3 forward/center had a rough shooting game Nov. 8 vs. New Orleans (4 of 13 from the field), but bounced back with a 20-10 outing Wednesday, going 8/9 on twos.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (6-18)

Wednesday loss vs. Dallas

Devonte’ Graham, Garrett Temple, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 0-1 and became the eighth different starting lineup New Orleans has used this season. It was the first time that Temple and Jones have been in the same first unit. … Valanciunas has a significant team lead in total minutes played this season (751). Nickeil Alexander-Walker is second at 694. … Of Temple’s seven starts this season, two have been against Dallas.

DALLAS (11-9)

Wednesday win at New Orleans

Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell

Notes: This group is 1-0. Like with New Orleans, it became the eighth different starting lineup Dallas has used this season. Bullock was making his first start since Oct. 29. Incidentally, the spot-up shooter played for New York last season and drained an overtime-forcing corner three-pointer vs. New Orleans in an April game. … Wednesday’s win kept the Mavericks in fourth place in the Western Conference.

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

BETTER START

New Orleans can’t afford to repeat the first quarter from Wednesday, when Dallas put the Pelicans on their heels immediately – especially defensively – and rolled to a 41-23 lead through 12 minutes.

THREE-POINT DEFENSE

During a historically great shooting night by the Mavericks on Wednesday, they went 18/34 from three-point range, which is 53 percent. The Pelicans are 0-8 this season when their opponent shoots 40 percent or better on treys.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

How will Dallas’ defense adjust vs. Ingram? The 2020 All-Star forward rang up 29 points Wednesday in just 30 minutes. Could the Mavericks try to force him into being more of a passer Friday? If Dallas swarms Ingram, his teammates will need to make open shots.

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