Herb Jones vs. Luka Doncic: How Herb can win this one-on-one battle

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball against Herbert Jones #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans . (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball against Herbert Jones #5 of the New Orleans Pelicans . (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) /

Tonight Herb Jones and the New Orleans Pelicans will take on the Dallas Mavericks at home in what will be the first of two in a row vs. Dallas and superstar Luka Doncic.

This is a game most Pels’ fans have circled on the calendar, usually because of the matchup of Zion Williamson and Luka, two of the best young players in the game.

With Zion out, the focus has shifted to rookie Herb Jones, who is turning heads with his defense and was recently named as a top-10 NBA rookie.

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He will have his hands full tonight against Luka, who is once again an MVP candidate putting up huge offensive numbers. Luka is averaging an eye-popping 25.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.3 assists and no one in the NBA does more for their team offensively than Luka does for the Mavericks.

That makes stopping him the easiest way to beat the Mavs, who may be without the services of Kristaps Porzingis tonight in New Orleans.

Stopping Luka is pretty much impossible, so success is measured in how well you can slow him down. This is how Herb Jones can do it.

Herb Jones has to make Luka Doncic work in Pelicans vs. Mavericks

The only real knock you can find on Luka is that he isn’t in the greatest physical condition. Guys in the NBA are probably wondering how they are getting torched night after night by a guy who looks like he has never lifted a weight, but that shows you exactly how skilled Luka is.

Herb has to make Luka work and test his cardio by picking him up full court and staying in his space. Jones is very good at fighting over or through screens, and he’ll have to do it tonight to stay close to Luka and make him take tough shots and work for everything he gets.

He’ll have to be physical without fouling and try to harass Luka every step of the way. Doncic is going to get his points, so the key to having a good game against him is to make him take a lot of shots to get them.

All but two of the Mavs losses have come in games in which Luka Doncic shot less than 45 percent, so that is the mark Jones will try to keep him from reaching.

The Pelicans need to make Luka Doncic go right

Herb Jones won’t be the only player defending Luka, as I am sure Josh Hart and maybe even Brandon Ingram will get their shot at him as well.

Luka’s patented move is the step-back, and he loves taking them off the left-handed dribble. If teams sag and try to stop the drive, he steps back. If they close out too hard, he blows by them, as you can see here:

Herb et al have to close that space but do it under control, forcing Luka to take his step back from deep.

He’s shooting 34 percent from 3-point range on high volume, but the best chance to slow him down is to keep him as far from the rim as possible.

The Pelicans need to force him right so he at least isn’t as comfortable taking the step back, as disrupting his rhythm is about all you can hope for against the perennial MVP candidate.

Herb Jones has his toughest matchup of the season but if he can at least slow Doncic down, the Pelicans should have a chance to win this one at home and continue to build momentum.

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