In their first Southwest Division game of the season, the New Orleans Pelicans met depth, intensity and experience in the Dallas Mavericks, and that was too much to overcome.
In the end, the Pelicans ran out of steam, wilting against Dallas’ legion of experienced players as the Mavs held them to 15 points in the fourth quarter for a 109-104 victory Saturday at the Smoothie King Center.
The win was the eight in a row by Dallas (2-1) against New Orleans (1-1), which was looking for back-to-back wins to start the season after an impressive season-opening performance against Orlando on Tuesday.
After surging in the third quarter and overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit, the Pelicans appeared set to snatch an improbable triumph. But in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (shooting 4-of-18). They had just six turnovers in the first three quarters.
“You don’t like it, obviously, when they miss it, but I like the intention,” coach Monty Williams said when asked about the team’s shot selection in the fateful fourth. “There were a couple of the charges that I thought we could have gotten off the ball or given it to a guy that was open.
“We just have to understand the value of the ball, especially after you dig yourself out of a hole like that. I think the guys were going for home runs when all we needed was singles at that point.”
Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 31 points and 15 rebounds, with Jrue Holiday scoring 24. Starting shooting guard Eric Gordon didn’t score, going 0-of-6 from the field with four turnovers.
Just when the Pelicans had taken control, Dallas snatched it back. New Orleans led 94-90 at 10:08 of the fourth quarter after a jumper by Davis. But the Mavs went on an 11-2 run over the next 3½ minutes to take a 101-96 lead, the final basket in the run being a 26-foot 3-pointer by Chandler Parsons. New Orleans had its chances after that but could not make shots.
Reserves Devin Harris and Brandan Wright helped fueled the run, with Harris making a key steal and passing to Wright for a dunk that gave Dallas a 98-94 lead at 8:04. Dallas continued to ride the wave.
Center Tyson Chandler credited the bench and said the Mavericks tightened up on defense, especially on Tyeke Evans, who has the reputation of not being a good outside shooter but was making them in the third. The Pelicans missed their final eight shots, with Evans missing four. He finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“We gave up some easy looks in the third quarter,” Chandler said. “We started buckling down. We weren’t challenging their shots. Our plan was to go under Tyreke on pick-and-rolls, but we weren’t supposed to just let him rain up shots. We were just giving him open shots.”
The Pelicans began the third quarter with a completely different energy and intensity from the first half, and they cut a 14-point halftime deficit to eight in less than two minutes to start the third quarter. At 10:04 of the quarter, they trailed just 68-60.
Playing defense up in the Mavs’ faces, the Pelicans kept surging while Dallas abandoned its pick-and-roll game for jump shots. The result was a 23-6 run by the Pelicans in which Holiday sank a jump shot after Davis blocked an attempt by Parsons, giving New Orleans a 75-72 lead at 4:54 of the third.
With Evans’ practice work on his jump shot paying off, the Pelicans were able to stay in front for the most part. From the 3:30 mark on, Evans sank three jumpers — including consecutive 3s — and then stole a pass and dunked for an 87-83 lead with 1:03 left.
But Dallas was able to come to 89-86 on a last-second 3 by Jameer Nelson. It was an omen of what was to come.
However, that was a far cry from the first half, when the Mavericks shredded the Pelicans defense, shooting 55.1 percent. Ten Dallas players scored, with only Parsons in double figures with 15 points. The Mavericks led by a resounding 66-52 at halftime.
Dallas took a 32-26 lead at the end of the first quarter. It dashed the Pelicans’ plans of getting off to a fast start by shooting 5-of-8 on its way to an 11-4 lead, outrebounding New Orleans 10-2.
When Harris sank a 3 after an offensive rebound to start the second quarter, the Mavs picked up where they left off. The Pelicans were at 43-35 with 7:14 remaining when the Mavs, one of the best pick-and-roll teams in the league, began putting on a clinic.
And Parsons, left wide open on an out-of-bounds play, sank a 3 for a 53-38 bulge with 4:50 left before halftime.