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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans trudge onwards, look to break losing streak against Dallas Mavericks

Pels hope second meeting against Mavs goes as well as the first.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans (15-19) will take on their division rival the Dallas Mavericks (15-17) Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. New Orleans has lost it’s last four games and are struggling bigly to paraphrase our President. Anthony Davis and company will need to start turning things around quickly or risk missing the playoffs in the super competitive Western Conference.

Luckily for New Orleans, their next opponent has struggled even more lately. The Dallas Mavericks are currently on a six-game losing streak and have struggled to finish games — sound familiar? On the surface the Mavericks look like a good opponent to get healthy against, however, a slightly deeper look reveals several concerns for New Orleans.

Despite the Mavs overall losing record (15-17), they are outstanding at home. Dallas currently sports a 13-3 record at home and no team in the NBA currently has fewer home losses than the Mavericks. On the bright side, all three of their losses came to less than stellar teams (SAC, NYK, UTA). Does Dallas tend to overlook mediocre opponents?

In the first matchup in New Orleans, the Pelicans dominated the Mavericks in the paint in a convincing 132-106 win. Dallas had few answers for Julius Randle and Anthony Davis as both players scored 27 points in the contest. While New Orleans will still have the advantage inside, it’s the perimeter play that will likely decide the winner of this game.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Mavericks Rookie of The Year candidate Luka Doncic has seemingly improved by the game during his first campaign in the league. Doncic is already the Mavericks leading scorer and has shown an incredible penchant for creating space with his dribble and hesitation. I would expect head coach Alvin Gentry to start Solomon Hill on Luka Doncic, allowing Jrue Holiday to hound Wesley Matthews Jr. However, if Doncic gets hot, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Pelicans coaching staff switches Holiday onto him.

New Orleans should be able to take advantage of the slower footed DeAndre Jordan and undersized Harrison Barnes inside. However, it will likely be the backcourt and bench production that will have to show up if the Pels are going to snap their current losing streak. Bench scoring will be absolutely huge in this game. Dallas ranks 14th in bench scoring while New Orleans currently ranks 28th.

Beyond better second unit play, New Orleans will also need to defend the three-point line well against the Mavericks. The Mavs shoot a decent but not spectacular 34.7% from three as a team. For context that is actually slightly worse than the Pelicans who shoot 34.9% from three. The difference between these two teams, however, is that Dallas takes way more three-point attempts than New Orleans. The Mavericks average 33.7 three point attempts a game, ranking 6th in the association, while New Orleans ranks 23rd in that category. Despite the average shooting percentage, the threat caused by taking so many three-point shots forces the defense to move which ultimately leads to more efficient shots for the Mavericks. Many Pelicans fans have clamored for Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry to implore a similar strategy but New Orleans lacks the requisite shooting to consistently pull this off.

Other areas the Pelicans will have to focus on are the free throw and turnover battles. Both New Orleans and Dallas are top ten in free throw attempts and bottom ten in turnovers per game respectively. Whichever team can keep the other off the line and protect the rock will likely have the privilege of breaking their losing streak. Let’s hope for our sake that the Pelicans give fans a belated win for Christmas rather than a lump of holiday coal.

Where To Watch

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks

Where: American Airlines Arena

When: Wednesday, December 26, 2018, 7:30 p.m. Central