DALLAS — It had to end sometime, right?
After five games and five improbable victories without superstar forward Anthony Davis, after a long and draining road trip from Denver after a game the night before, after outrunning the Dallas Mavericks throughout a relentless first half, the New Orleans Pelicans just didn’t have anything left to give.
The result was a 102-93 loss to Dallas on Monday night at American Airlines Center, ending the Pelicans’ amazing run without the injured Davis, not to mention Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson.
“I think fatigue hit us a little bit,” guard Eric Gordon said. “They were scoring, and anytime you can score a lot of baskets, it helps your defense and gets your confidence up. That’s what helped them. A team like that can always score, score and score.”
Still, the Pelicans matched the Mavericks shot for shot and then some for a half, shooting a 53.7 percent from the field and making nine of 17 3-pointers. They seized a 58-55 halftime lead with a flurry of eight quick points in the final two minutes, powered by two Gordon 3-pointers.
They extended the lead to 60-55 with Dante Cunningham’s jumper 20 seconds into the third quarter.
Then it all went dry.
For the next 6 minutes, 47 seconds, the Pelicans couldn’t seem to locate the basket, missing their next 12 — count ’em, 12 — shots. The Mavericks, meanwhile, had no trouble locating the hoop, outscoring New Orleans 16-0 in that span to turn a five-point deficit to an 11-point lead before Tyreke Evans finally broke the drought with a jumper from the right elbow with 4:53 left in the quarter.
“We just couldn’t score,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “And then they were running the ball down our throat. … Typically, lately, we’ve been scoring, so that hurt us, and then we just didn’t emotionally get it back after that.
“I thought we got down a little bit. Maybe we were tired. For whatever reason, we didn’t have same juice in that third quarter.”
And that, really, was that. The Pelicans made a mini-run to close within five and hung around in that area for a while, but without Davis and Co., they just couldn’t find the firepower to keep up with Dallas.
The Pelicans had no answer from there.
“They beat us to a couple loose balls and made buckets, made 3s off them,” said guard Norris Cole, who led the Pelicans with 19 points. “We fought hard, but sometimes this is a miss-or-make league. They made shots in the second half, and we didn’t. When you’re trying to come back, everything has to go right, and it didn’t tonight.
“Sometimes it is that simple. Obviously, we have to play better defense, but when the game is close and a loose ball doesn’t go your way and they get a 3 or an extra possession, it makes a difference. When you’re down, it really hurts.”
New Orleans’ offense came from its backcourt — in addition to Coles’ 19 points, Gordon added 18 and Evans 17 — but the Pelicans couldn’t stop Mavericks guards Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo, who combined for 39 points on 17-for-34 shooting.
Boith of them beat the defense to the rim early and often, which helped the Mavericks outscore the Pelicans 50-24 inside.
“When he plays like that — not thinking, just going — he’s definitely a factor you have to deal with,” Evans said of Rondo, who has struggled at times since he was traded to Dallas from Boston in December. “On the pick-and-roll, he was just in attack mode, taking what the defense was giving him. He had it going tonight.”
Center Alexis Ajinca was the Pelicans’ only strong visible inside presence Monday, shooting 6-for-9 and finishing with 13 points — 10 in the first half — and 12 rebounds.
The Pelicans’ pursuit of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot continues Wednesday at home against Detroit. The Pelicans entered Monday night’s game a half-game behind Oklahoma City for eighth.
“We’re definitely trying to get to the playoffs, but whatever happens happens,” Evans said before the game. “We’re going to fight to the end. We’re right there. We’ve got to keep right on playing.”