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Game Preview: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Dallas Mavericks

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The Pelicans have won two games in a row. Can they make it three against the Dallas Mavericks? The game is on ESPN, so I'm curious to see who will step up and form a one-two punch with Anthony Davis on the offensive end.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are on a winning streak! Victories over the Lakers and Knicks gave New Orleans a record of 10-10. The Pelicans needed those wins, because the rest of the December slate is pretty tough. Teams like Portland, San Antonio, Houston, a recharged Oklahoma City, and Golden State all make an appearance on New Orleans’ schedule. Ultimately, that means that they need to pummel those cupcakes when they appear.

Now, the Pelicans head off to Dallas for a Wednesday matchup on ESPN.

The Mavericks are one of the more fun teams in basketball. Their offense is pretty good, Tyson Chandler is a defensive beast when he’s on, and Dirk Nowitzki is one of the five best players from this generation. After not defending their championship in 2011, the Mavericks made a couple of dubious moves that resulted in them being in the bottom half of the Western Conference, even missing the playoffs for a season.

Now, they got Chandler Parsons, stealing him from their in-state rival Houston Rockets for a song in free agency, they fleeced the New York Knicks in the Tyson Chandler trade, and added a handful of decent, but effective role players like J.J. Barea and Greg Smith to their bench, all of which will be used correctly under Rick Carlisle. The Mavericks are missing something on their roster, but they were missing something last year (proper rim protection) when they took the eventual champs to seven games last season.

The first game between these two division rivals was a November 1st affair, where the Mavericks walked away victorious 109-104 in the Smoothie King Center. Anthony Davis had 31-15 that night, Jrue Holiday filled up the boxscore (24-4-6-3), but the Mavericks overtook New Orleans in the fourth and the Pelicans couldn’t put it together down the stretch. With almost 20 games since that matchup for both teams, we have a more clearer view of what both teams bring to the table.

Let’s talk about those Dallas Mavericks.

Stats Of Note

For starters, the Mavericks are the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 16-7 record. A large part for their success is their incredible offense. The Mavericks are first in the league with a 113.9 offensive efficiency rating. Staggering. The combination of Monta Ellis (20.3 points per game), Dirk Nowitzki (18.8) and Chandler Parsons (16.1) forms a three-headed attack, but Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright are the ones to watch.

Chandler and Wright are fourth and fifth on the team in the scoring department (10.8 and 9.0, respectively), but both get their points with pristine efficiency. Chandler is currently shooting 69.5% from the field, while Wright is at 74.2%. Both are excellent at getting points at the rim, either on dunks or just open layups at the rim, and neither take shots they aren’t supposed to take.

One reason for Dallas’ success offensively has to be their passing. Thanks to NBA.com’s sportsVU, we have better numbers to describe just how good Dallas is at moving the ball around. Dallas is seventh in the league at 24.0 assists per game, but rank first in total assists and first in free throw assists per game. The Mavericks don’t have one prolific passer, but Ellis, Nelson, Barea and Harris all average at least 4.0 assists per game, while Parsons and Dirk chip in with 2.3 assists apiece.

For all of the offensive Dallas brings, the defense is lacking. Even with the addition of Tyson Chandler to protect the rim, the Mavericks are 22nd in the league defensive efficiency, allowing 105.2 points per 100 possessions. Ellis is an undersized defender at the shooting guard position, Chandler Parsons is prone for a defensive lapses or two, and the point guard smorgasbord of Jameer Nelson, J.J. Barea, and Devin Harris isn’t changing games defensively either.

Keys To Victory

Jrue Holiday — Last time these two teams played, the Pelicans saw Jrue Holiday go off for 24 points, four rebounds, six assists, and three steals. This time around, I see no reason why he shouldn’t duplicate that. I find this to be a game where he should use his ability to attack their point guards defensively and disrupt their offense a bit. I wouldn’t mind if Monty Williams attached him to Monta Ellis late in games, too.

Bench Points — The last time these two played, the Pelicans were still relying heavily on their starters to score in order to win. This time, the Pelicans come back with two new players — Dante Cunningham and Gal Mekel. Mekel could move the ball on the second unit, while Cunningham, coming off a seven-point, nine-rebound performance against the Knicks, will be expected to provide another decent scorer off the bench. It should take some pressure off of Ryan Anderson, who scored just 11 points on 5-11 shooting in their first matchup.

Anthony Davis and Omer AsikThe Mavericks are an offensive juggernaut, and because of that, the Pelicans need to find away to stop them. Good luck with that; The Mavericks rank third on shots from less than five feet, sixth on shots between five and nine feet and third from 15 to 19 feet. From 10 to 15 feet, the Mavericks are 13th in the league, 20th from 20 to 24 feet, and 11th from 25 to 29 feet. Forcing them into that mid-range seems to be one way to have a chance. For ranking 20th, Dallas ranks third in the league on attempts from that area.

This is where Davis and Asik come into the play. The Pelicans need to have that duo guarding from the rim to about eight feet, serving as a wall around the rim. Forcing players like Monta Ellis and Devin Harris to pull up for that jumper, instead of attacking the rim or passing it out gives New Orleans a chance to temporarily halt their offense.

Pushing the winning streak to three would be great here.

What: Pelicans @ Mavericks

Where: American Airlines Center

When: December 10th, 7:00pm

How: ESPN