Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks facing must-win versus Zion-less Pelicans

Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic sprained his ankle in the opening minutes of a game against the Suns last week, and fans were fearing the worst. Luckily, number 77 only missed one game before returning with a 53-point masterpiece to defeat the Pistons on Monday night. Doncic broke the Mavs franchise record for points in a regulation game to prove that he’s back.

The Mavericks host the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night, and Dallas has every advantage heading into the contest. Zion Williamson will miss his 15th consecutive game with a hamstring injury as the Pelicans look to snap a nine-game losing streak that has them clutching the tenth and final play-in spot in the Western Conference. Brandon Ingram is back, but he has yet to hit his stride as New Orleans desperately needs a win.

Luka and Zion have not faced off since Feb. 12, 2021, and they have faced each other just two times in Williamson’s four-year career. Fans will again miss out on that tantalizing matchup, but there are even more important reasons why Thursday’s game is a must-win for Dallas.

Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks facing a must-win versus Zion-less Pelicans

The Mavs are fifth in the West, but they are just one game ahead of the Pelicans in the standings. Yes, fifth and tenth are only separated by one game, and there figures to be little separation by season’s end. It could come down to tiebreakers, and the first will be head-to-head record.

The two teams have split the first two meetings with two games left this season. A win means Dallas can at worst earn a split with the Pelicans heading into their final showdown on March 8. Zion should be back for that contest, and it will be a massive game in New Orleans.

The Mavericks do not want to have to go on the road and win against the full-strength Pelicans in the final meeting. They must take care of business at home and guarantee they will not lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to New Orleans.

The Pelicans were second in the Western Conference before their nine-game losing streak started, so the last thing they need is a massive win and a spark. The Dallas Mavericks have the chance to make it ten consecutive on Thursday night and move the Pelicans into a tie with the Trail Blazers for the final play-in position. Expect Luka Doncic to be locked in as he sees an opportunity to gain some ground on their division foe.

The Mavericks have another edge on Feb. 2 as the weather prevented the Pelicans from flying to Dallas on Wednesday. They will fly in on Thursday, but that is less than ideal for an important game.

The Dallas Mavericks begin an eight-game stretch against Western Conference playoff hopefuls on Thursday night that leads into the All-Star break. Christian Wood and Maxi Kleber remain out, but fans are going to find out a lot about this team over the next two weeks. Can Luka spark another Mavs run? Tune in and enjoy the game.

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