Five wins in a row for the New Orleans Pelicans. Taking care of the Denver Nuggets was something I worried about, not because the Pelicans and Nuggets are close in talent, but because the Pelicans lost that game before (a.k.a - the game they should’ve won). Knocking off the Nuggets places the Pelicans just 0.5 games behind the Thunder for the eighth seed.
The Pelicans aren’t far from being a perennial playoff team. I just want this team to remain healthy for one season. There are some minor tweaks I would make, but as currently constructed, I like the roster. The additions of Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole for basically nothing has give this team two low-end role players who can stretch the floor (Cole not so much, but I would like to think he can regain that) and defend.
Asik, Davis, Pondexter, Gordon, Holiday as your starters with Evans, Cole, Anderson and Cunningham. Plus a sprinkle of Alexis Ajinca, who is playing really well recently. I like, I like.
Let’s jump right into the Dallas Mavericks.
Stats of Note
The Mavericks are currently sitting in the sixth seed in the Western Conference with a 39-22 record. Even with the Rajon Rondo trade, the Mavericks still sit third in the league in offensive efficiency at 108.2. The combination of Dirk Nowitzki (17.7 ppg, 56.1 TS%), Chandler Parsons (15.4 ppg, 55.8 TS%) and Tyson Chandler (10.6 ppg, 70.7 TS%) creates one of the league’s best offenses. Then throw in Monta Ellis (19.3 ppg, 52.0 TS%) and his wildcard offense gives the Mavericks multiple facets to their offense.
Defensively, the Mavericks rank 14th in the league at 102.3, but since the Rondo trade (Rondo’s first game as a Maverick was on December 20th), the Mavericks have been a top 10 defense. Rondo gives them that second defensive gear and the departure of Brandan Wright allowed the Mavericks to work with some of the bench options. Al-Farouq Aminu has given the Mavericks a solid defender on the perimeter and Devin Harris is also a fine defender.
To me, the West contenders are Golden State, Memphis, Portland and San Antonio (I know, I know on SA. I just need to see them lose first).
While I don’t see them winning a championship, the Mavericks have the talent to contend and battle a top four seed in the first round . Chandler as your rim protector, Rondo as your point guard and Parsons, Ellis, and Nowitzki as your offensive firepower. If the Mavericks can get solid production from the Amar’e Stoudemire, Devin Harris, Al-Farouq Aminu trio, I think they can take a round.
I fear for them when they go against a good shooting guard, so, maybe avoid Portland.
Keys To Victory
Attack the glass- The Mavericks are 29th in the league in rebound rate, only ahead of Philadelphia. Alexis Ajinca has been fine off the bench for the Pelicans as of late, averaging 6.0 rebounds in five games. Omer Asik is coming off a 16-rebound game and guys like Dante Cunningham and Tyreke Evans are capable of putting up good defensive totals.
Play your tempo- The Mavericks play the 11th fastest pace in the league. The Pelicans play the fourth slowest. Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole should both slow the game down and force Dallas to play their game. Get deep into possessions, get some mid-range jumpers from Cunningham and Gordon and limit possessions.
Eric Gordon- I like Eric Gordon against the Mavericks. If matched up against Monta Ellis, this game should be a ton of fun. Gordon can shoot, post up and run a bit of pick-and-roll for New Orleans. His versatility will be great for the Pelicans and their chances.
The Pelicans and Mavericks have placed three close games this season. 109-104 Mavs, 112-107 Mavs and 109-106 Pellies. With Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis out, I’m curious to see if the Pelicans can keep it close. Either way, this series has been fun to watch this season. With the Pelicans winners of five in a row, I believe New Orleans could make this six.
Who: Pelicans at Mavericks
When: March 2nd, 8:30 est, 7:30 cst
Where: American Airlines Center
How to Watch: NBA League Pass, Fox Sports South West