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NBA Preview: Pelicans need to even season series with Dallas to keep playoff hopes afloat

For New Orleans to stay alive for the 8th seed, they’ll have to overtake one of the three teams sitting ahead of them on Wednesday.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Each of the eight remaining games for the Pelicans are, for all intents and purposes, must-win games. The deficit is too great and there are too few games remaining in the regular season for New Orleans to not come out victorious. But Wednesday’s contest against the Mavericks is especially a game New Orleans can’t afford to lose.

Truth be told it’s getting harder and harder to believe the NBA playoffs are still on the table. Sitting four and a half games out of the postseason, which will be five by the time the Nuggets vs Trail Blazers game ends later tonight, New Orleans is still mathematically alive for the postseason. If the deficit wasn’t perilous enough for the Pelicans, they still have three teams sitting between them and a first round series with either Golden State or San Antonio. One of those teams are the Dallas Mavericks, who currently own a 2-1 season series edge over the Pelicans.

Wednesday is the fourth and final meeting between the two cellar dwelling teams in the Southwest Division. In the previous three games the home team has come out on top, so if the trend holds, New Orleans should pick up a desperately needed win.

The last time the two got together was back on February 25 in Dallas and to say the Pelicans offense “struggled” would be putting it kindly. New Orleans managed only 83 points. Despite their record, this Dallas team plays surprisingly stout defense: the Mavericks are third in points allowed and 13th defensive rating.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis was the only player that seemed immune to Dallas’ defense, scoring 39 of New Orleans’ 83 points. Jrue Holiday was the team’s second-leading scorer with 18 points, but it took an inefficient 5-17 shooting performance to get there. And DeMarcus Cousins, still wearing that new Pelicans smell, had a mixed bag at best night: 12 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists, which is fine on its face, but he shot 33 percent from the floor, turned it over seven times and was -15 on the floor.

To recap: Davis was otherworldly, Holiday was inefficient and Cousins was meh. All other Pelicans were virtually nonexistent. Jarrett Jack (remember him?) scored six points and all the other players (Hill, Cunningham, Frazier and Reggie Williams that’s right, REGGIE WILLIAMS!) scored two points each. I’d imagine New Orleans would prefer if four players didn’t combine to score eight points, but I haven’t directly confirmed this with Alvin Gentry yet so who knows.

The Mavericks possess a good-isa defense, but the Pelicans have made slight strides offensively since that late February game. For starters, neither E’Twaun Moore or Jordan Crawford were on the floor that night so don’t expect the Pelicans to repeat that 5-24 three-point shooting performance. And while they’re still flawed, New Orleans is starting to look like it’s gelling with the parts they have to work with. I’ll be watching to see if Solomon Hill can have at least 12 points — New Orleans plays so much better when Hill’s three point shot is falling or he’s being aggressive and attacking the basket.

Really there’s not much more to add for this preview. It’s game number 75 for New Orleans and their fourth matchup with a divisional opponent. We know who both of these teams are by now.

What it boils down to at this point is whether our favorite team go out, execute and beat the other guys to keep the slim playoff hopes alive.

Geaux Pelicans!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Dallas Mavericks

Where: Smoothie King Center — New Orleans, LA

When: March 29, 2017, 7:00 PM Central