Southwest Notes: Pelicans, McCollum, Doncic, Mavericks

The Pelicans are 33-22 and have the same record as the fifth-seeded Suns. Still, they’ve got room to improve, as evidenced by several close games against some of the league’s bottom teams, according to The Athletic’s William Guillory. New Orleans won three games in a row against the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and Wizards, but they were all decided by single digits. In the wins over Memphis and Washington, the Pelicans squandered 20-point leads before coming back late to win.

When we get a lead, especially if we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, we’ve got to be able to maintain leads,Zion Williamson said. “If we were able to maintain leads, we would probably be 14, 15, 16 games over .500. I think we’re in an OK spot. But when we come back from break, we’ve got to be able to fine-tune some of those small nuances in the game.

The team’s offense and defense has been a mixed bag, according to Guillory, and neither Williamson nor Brandon Ingram has been consistent with his dominance. While the Pelicans are deep with young players and solid rotation pieces, they’re still attempting to build consistency, which will be crucial as the playoff approach.

I think we’re learning to grow with each other,” coach Willie Green said of the team. “This group is still pretty young in terms of [our starters] being on the floor together for this long in the season. Along the way, we’re starting to figure it out, but I think that plays a role in some of the inconsistencies we’ll see from time to time. We just have to stay committed to working the kinks out.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum is pleased with how Williamson and Ingram have progressed since he joined the team in 2022, according to Sportskeeda’s Mark Medina. “They have a better understanding of their game and their bodies with what they need to do each day to be ready to play, when to rest and when to workout,” McCollum said as part of an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda. “Their IQ is continuing to improve as well as their decision making. They’re just playing their total games with scoring, rebounding and passing. Defensively, I think they have gotten better and have been more aggressive. The more they rebound on defense, the better we are on offense.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic, like many other All-Stars, had no intention of being offensively assertive during the East’s 211-186 victory over the Western Conference in the 2024 All-Star Game, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Doncic had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the game and was content to let others shine. “People come in here and play 40 minutes, they don’t want to get injured,” Doncic said. “Everybody just gets out of the way. I don’t know how to fix that. I just follow the lead.
  • The Mavericks are in a much better position at this All-Star break compared to last season, even if there’s been less buzz surrounding the team, Townsend writes. The Mavs are 32-23 and are tied for the longest winning streak in the league at six games whereas last year they were 31-29 and were five games into the Kyrie Irving-Doncic pairing. After acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the deadline, Dallas looks more capable of approaching 50 wins this season, according to Townsend.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens and Spurs forwards Marcus Morris and Cedi Osman are among players we’re monitoring as possible buyout options.
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