Alvin Gentry understood why the question was asked, understood why someone might wonder if his Pelicans took the Dallas Mavericks lightly Wednesday night.
It was fair to ponder, given New Orleans’ 100-91 loss at the Smoothie King Center to a Dallas team that rested four starters and was coming off a double-overtime win against the Kings the night before.
Gentry understood the question. But the thought of it made him “incredulous,” he said.
“We’re at the bottom of our conference,” Gentry said afterward. “We’re at the bottom of the league, really. For us to think that we could be able to come out and coast through a game, I don’t understand that. I don’t know where that would even come from that we would think that we could do that.”
The Pelicans aren’t quite at the bottom. But they can see it from there. And though they’re still within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot, still maintaining they can right their 11-23 season, they didn’t play that way Wednesday.
The Mavericks rested four starters — Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia, Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams —who each played 40 or more minutes in Tuesday’s double-overtime win against the Kings in Dallas.
Chandler Parsons, who had been questionable before the game with a hip contusion but who was in the starting lineup, was the only Maverick available who started the Pelicans’ 105-98 win in Dallas on Saturday.
“I’m really disappointed in the way we approached the thing,” Gentry said. “We tried time and time again to tell them that it doesn’t matter who’s playing and who’s not playing. Usually in these situations guys try to step it up anyway, because they’re trying to earn extra minutes. And we didn’t react. We just didn’t. I wish I knew what to say. I don’t.”
The Mavericks got that energy from Dwight Powell, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and from Jeremy Evans and JaVale McGee, who were active defensively.
They also got strong nights from veterans Raymond Felton (22 points) Parsons (21 points, eight rebounds, six assists), J.J. Barea (11 points) and Devin Harris (10 points).
Anthony Davis had 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for the Pelicans (11-23), but he scored 18 in the first half and made 4 of 11 second-half shots. Tyreke Evans had 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and Eric Gordon added 14 points.
But the Mavericks led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter and outscored the Pelicans 51-41 in the second half.
Barea’s 3-pointer with 8:37 to play in the game gave the Mavericks their first double-digit lead of the game, 80-70. He made another with 7:53 to play to put Dallas in front 83-72. A Raymond Felton 3-pointer with 5:40 to play put the Mavericks ahead 86-72.
The loss was a stunner, coming on the heels of New Orleans’ win in Dallas on Saturday and two practices this week that Gentry said featured “great energy” and “good execution.”
“I don’t really have an answer for you,” Gordon said. “One day you play great offensively, another day you do bad. Defensively one game you do it. It’s just inconsistent all-around. I just don’t have too many answers.”
Gentry vowed to find some. He put the blame on players and coaches alike and said the Pelicans will “change lineups, change rotations, change people if we have to” in what he said will be “an overhaul” of what’s not working.
“There’s nobody who’s going to figure it out for us,” Davis said. “There’s nobody who’s going to feel sad for us. It’s all the guys in this locker room and the offices back there who has to figure it out. I know it sounds like a broken record, but that’s what has to happen. Nobody’s going to change it for us. Nobody’s going to fix it for us. Nobody’s going to hand it to us.”