postgame: Mavericks 108, Pelicans 89 (2/26/14)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca posts up against Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert

DALLAS – On Wednesday night, basketball fans who don’t get the opportunity to watch the New Orleans Pelicans often witnessed one unfortunate staple of the team’s 2013-14 season: A key player leaving the court due to injury. Hoops aficionados hoping to catch a glimpse of Anthony Davis in a nationally televised ESPN game only saw the All-Star forward for 13 minutes, before he was forced to exit due to a left shoulder sprain. He did not return to the game; his status for Friday’s ESPN game at Phoenix is uncertain.

After Davis was sidelined at 4:13 of the second quarter, New Orleans (23-34) stayed competitive into the third quarter, but couldn’t stop Dallas (36-23) in the fourth quarter en route to a fifth straight defeat.

The Pelicans trailed just 78-67 entering the final stanza, before the Mavericks put together a 15-4 run to quickly build a 15-point lead. New Orleans turnovers helped ignite Dallas, with several poor passes and mishandled dribbles leading to fast-break points at the other end. A low-turnover team for much of the season, the Pelicans committed a season-most 21 against the Mavericks.

“Turnovers killed us,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “We shot 50 percent from the field, 45 (percent) from three-point range, got more free-throw attempts, but just gave up 21 possessions for 30 points. You can’t do that against any team. It’s almost the same story from the last game (vs. the Clippers). We turned the ball over and they scored.”

“Obviously (Davis) is our best player and it was tough for us (to lose him in the first half), but I didn’t that that was the (total) problem,” said Pelicans point guard Brian Roberts, who had a solid 17-point game with just two turnovers. “I think it was the turnovers. We just had too many and they scored off of them. We shot the ball well, we outrebounded them, and we did some good things, but the turnovers were the killer.”

“We beat ourselves on turnovers,” said fellow backcourt starter Eric Gordon (team-best 19 points but five turnovers). “Guys have been in and out (of the lineup due to injuries) all year. All we’ve got to do is keep adjusting. It does break the rhythm when someone goes out, especially someone who plays a lot of minutes. It’s tough. But everybody’s going to have to keep adjusting.”

In the first 30 seconds of Wednesday’s game, it looked like the Mavericks might have to play without their All-Star forward, Dirk Nowitzki, who injured his left shoulder in a collision with the Pelicans’ Al-Farouq Aminu. Nowitzki quickly returned to the court after briefly going to the locker room, then proceeded to score 18 points.

New Orleans led 27-20 after a well-played first quarter, but Dallas surged in front with a 29-16 second quarter. The Mavericks gradually started to take command in the third quarter, pushing a 49-43 edge to the 78-67 spread with a second straight 29-point period.

Monta Ellis paced Dallas overall with 23 points. The quick shooting guard from Mississippi was particularly difficult to stop in the fourth quarter, when he racked up nine of his points. The Mavericks surged to their biggest lead of the game at 108-85, before the Pelicans tallied the night’s last four points.