The New Orleans Pelicans might be getting tired of playing against elite players on their three-game road trip.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 50 points and 15 rebounds Sunday as the Pelicans began their trip with a 135-110 loss at Milwaukee. Then Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assiststo lead the Denver Nuggets to a 122-113 victory Tuesday for New Orleans' ninth consecutive defeat.
Now the Pelicans will take a crack at slowing down Luka Doncic, who scored 53 points against the Detroit Pistons on Monday in his most recent game, when they visit the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.
Doncic scored 14 points in the first quarter Jan. 7 as the Mavericks raced to a 19-point lead against the Pelicans. Doncic finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Dallas won 127-117.
That was New Orleans' fourth loss in five games, but that stretch is nothing compared to what the team is going through now.
"We've got to keep our heads down and keep working," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "It's hard to win in the NBA and we're seeing that. But we're starting to regain our identity on both ends of the floor. We're getting there. We just have to sustain it for 48 minutes."
New Orleans hoped the return of forward Brandon Ingram from a 29-game absence due to a bruised toe would be a boost. But he didn't shoot as well as 40 percent from the floor in the three games he has played.
"Brandon is coming off not playing in two months," Green said. "We expected it would take some time. He's working his way through it."
Ingram had 16 points against the Nuggets, making just five of 17 shots, but he did contribute nine assists.
"I like the fact that Brandon set the table early with his ability to see the floor and make open passes, and the guys were knocking down shots," Green said.
The Mavericks haven't struggled as much as the Pelicans have, but they're just 4-8 since the last meeting between the two teams.
Dallas finally shook off the lowly Pistons on Monday for a 111-105 victory as Doncic had his fourth 50-point game of the season.
He made 17 of 24 field-goal attempts, 5 of 11 3-pointers and 14 of 18 free throws in his return from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury.
"Still obviously not 100 percent," Doncic said of the ankle. "But it's good."
Doncic had 45 points through three quarters, but the Mavericks trailed much of the game and faced a one-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Doncic got some help as Spencer Dinwiddie scored 10 points during the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter and Dallas surged in front.
"Sometimes, when a star comes back from an injury, players wait to see if that guy gets going," said Mavericks coach Jason Kidd. "Spencer played at a high level the previous two games. But he was letting Luka dictate everything (Monday) instead of playing like he had been playing. Luka's going to join the party. He's too talented not to. The ball's going to find him.
"We talked at halftime about Spencer looking to be aggressive, act as if Luka was not out there, and he eventually did that."
-- Field Level Media