Boban Marjanovic picked Saturday afternoon as the time to have his coming-out party with the Dallas Mavericks.
The backup center poured in 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, both season highs, and played an integral role in the Mavs’ dominant 130-84 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans before an American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 19,456.
Because of Marjanovic’s massive size and the speed of the NBA game, often the Mavs can’t use the 7-4, 290-pounder because of mismatches that wouldn’t work in their favor. But that wasn’t the case on Saturday.
“When they elected to use (Jahlil) Okafor that was an opportunity for us to use Boban,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s hard to play him against guys like (Nicolo) Melli and (Jaxson) Hayes because of (their) quickness and shooting, but he did a great job.”
Marjanovic was 6-of-7 from the field and had 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half when the Mavs where putting some distance between themselves and the Pelicans. It was Marjanovic’s first double-double since last season when he was with Philadelphia and had 12 points and 10 rebounds in a Feb. 25 game against the Pelicans.
“My job is just to go on the court and play basketball,” Marjanovic said. “It just happens to be against them.”
A fan favorite, Marjanovic also blocked two shots and distributed a pair of assists against the Pelicans and showed why he is so important to the Mavs in special situations. Point guard Luka Doncic said: “When he goes on the court he’s going to give 100 percent, for sure.”
The Mavs are now 16-6 overall and winners in 10 of their last 11 games. And the fun-loving Marjanovic is happy to be a part of the equation.
“Everybody likes to play with this group of people,” said Marjanovic, who had six double-doubles last season. “I’m so smart sometimes.”
BAREA WANTED TO PLAY: When guard J. J. Barea got in Saturday’s game for the first time at the start of the fourth quarter, it was clear he didn’t want to come out when he was taken out with 4:55 remaining in the game.
So, coach Rick Carlisle put the 14-year veteran back in the game with 3:31 left, and he stayed there for the balance of the game. Carlisle said he had an eye on Sunday’s second of back-to-back games when considering playing time against the Pelicans.
Carlisle also had to factor in the fact that guard Delon Wright suffered a right adductor strain in the first quarter that will likely prevent him from playing against the Kings.
“We rotated some guys around in the fourth, which I’m sure you saw,” Carlisle said, while smiling. “You get a little explanation on the thing with Barea. We’ve been talking a little bit about with Delon likely being out tomorrow that if J.J. is needed it would be a great idea to play him 12 straight minutes.
“ Unfortunately, we didn’t have that conversation with J.J. before. Everybody’s got the right intentions. Hey, he’s competitive, he wants to play, and we worked through it.”
GENTRY ON DONCIC: New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry was asked if he’s surprised or impressed with the way Mavs point guard Luka Doncic’s game has evolved from his rookie season to this season.
Gentry evoked the name of Igor Koskokov, who was the Phoenix Suns’ head coach last season and is currently an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings. Koskokov also coached Doncic on the Slovenia National Team in 2016-’17.
“Obviously, I’m real close to Igor, and Igor raved about him when he was 15 years old, and said there’s a guy that’s going to take this league by storm,” Gentry said. “I thought he was a good player.
“I didn’t realize the depth of what he could do from a basketball IQ standpoint, and then you have the size and the ability to get the ball where you want to and his unselfish play. So it’s not a surprise, really, when you look at all the things that he can do and what he’s done in this league.”
Doncic has been the key cog as the Mavs have won 10 of their last 11 games and have climbed to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
“It’s great,” Doncic said of the high seeding, “but I wish it was at the end (of the season). It’s only the start of the season, so we’ve got to keep fighting.”