After succumbing to the Clippers on Thursday, the Pelicans will try to put 2015 in the rear view mirror. Their 10-22 record is the 4th worst in NBA, yet the hope is an easier schedule in January will help turn things around.
Up first, will be the Dallas Mavericks, but they shouldn't be considered a pushover. They have won five straight games at home including handing the Golden State Warriors just their second loss of the season. Granted, Stephen Curry did not play but a 23-point win against the rest of the roster is impressive nonetheless.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Dallas' recent success is learning which player has led their team in scoring over the last two weeks. No, it's not been Dirk Nowitzki, Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons. Give up already? You probably should because I would have never guessed J.J. Barea neither. When Deron Williams suffered a hamstring injury, the diminutive reserve point guard stepped up in Williams' absence, averaging 17.2 points and 6.7 assists a game.
The Mavericks have been very good offensively over the last 5 games. Shooting 47% on spot ups, 65% in transition. pic.twitter.com/4GCIrsIi3U— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) December 31, 2015
Yesterday, things came crashing down some, though, as the Heat whipped the Mavericks in Miami, 106-82. Dwyane Wade playing just 19 minutes (flu), but Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh combined for 41 points and 26 rebounds.
3 Keys to Victory
- Attack Dirk Nowitzki. After scoring just 14 points on 17 shots against the Clippers, Anthony Davis should have a much easier time versus the Mavericks. Nowitzki is 60th among power forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. The Pelicans need AD's scoring as they're just 3-8 when he scores less than 20 points.
- Make open shots. To beat the Mavericks, the Pelicans are going to need to make some shots. Dallas is 15-2 when they finish with a higher field goal percentage.
- Guard the 3-point line. Mark Cuban's team is on a 13-game streak of finishing with more three-point attempts than their opponents. Considering Pelican opponents make 38.7% from the area (league-worst), the potential is there for a seriously negative combination.