3 matchups the Pelicans have to dominate to beat Mavericks shorthanded

New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (17) dunks the ball against Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (17) dunks the ball against Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans will take on the Dallas Mavericks tonight at home and are already shorthanded a week into the season.

Brandon Ingram is in concussion protocol and both Zion Williamson and Herb Jones are listed as questionable, so the Pelicans will not have their full starting lineup and could be missing three guys from it, including their top two scorers and best defender.

The Pels are not favored to win at home, but they can still steal one if they can hold Luka Doncic in check and win some of the other matchups.

Naji Marshall could get the first shot at stopping Luka if he is in the starting lineup, so he will have to defend without fouling and stay on the floor. Hopefully his size will be enough to at least give Luka some problems.

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New Orleans will also need to win the battle of the benches, and get big games from guys like Jose Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr. (if he doesn’t start) and Jaxson Hayes.

But for the Pels to steal a shorthanded win at home, these three matchups will be key.

Matchups the Pelicans must win against Mavericks

CJ McCollum vs. Spencer Dinwiddie

We know Luka is probably going to get his numbers, especially with Herb Jones out, so the Pelicans will have to get a huge night from CJ McCollum to have a chance in this one.

He’ll likely be matched up against Dinwiddie early on, which is a matchup he should be able to win. McCollum will be more of a creator with Zion and Ingram out, so CJ not only has to score, but has to set up the shooters as well.

It’s also imperative that Dinwiddie not have a big game, as the key to this one will be making Luka win it by himself and not let any of the supporting cast get going with him.

Trey Murphy III vs. Reggie Bullock

The Pels will also need Trey Murphy III to step up and take on a bigger role in the offense. He’s had a hot start to the season shooting the ball, so needs to win the battle against fellow sharpshooter Reggie Bullock.

But Murphy III can potentially dominate this matchup on the boards as well, so he needs to stay active on the offensive boards and try to get some easy ones, as Bullock is not a great rebounder and TMIII has been averaging seven per game in the young season.

Murphy III will likely get the start tonight, so this will be a big test to see what he can do in an increased role. In the past, he’s had big games as a starter, and New Orleans will need one tonight.

Jonas Valanciunas vs. The Dallas Bigs

Jonas Valanciunas will likely start the game against JaVale McGee, but Christian Wood will play plenty off the bench as a small-ball center as well.

Valanciunas is coming off a quiet night offensively, but the Pels will need much more out of him in this one. He should be able to pull McGee away from the hoop, and overpower Wood in the post, so Jonas could have a big night against Dallas on the interior.

He’ll also have to play defense against Wood, who likes to play on the perimeter, something Jonas struggled with against the Jazz.

The crowd should be a big help to the Pelicans as they try to steal one without their stars, but it will take big games from the leftover starters and the reserves are going to have to step up in increased roles.

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