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Pelicans set to face hot but vulnerable Mavericks team

Expect an offensive showdown

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After climbing within a game of .500 in the standings, the New Orleans Pelicans stumbled against the Bulls in Chicago, but three winnable games remain on their current road trip and beating the Dallas Mavericks Friday evening would cure some ills.

The Pelicans faced the Mavericks four times last season. They didn’t walk away from any of those matchups with a victory. Clearly, New Orleans is overdue in handing Dallas a loss, and working in their favor, these Mavericks appear vulnerable.

The Mavericks are on a three-game winning streak and have won four of five, but looking deeper, none of those victories came against the top third of the league. Moreover, all the wins went down to the wire. The loss was a 147-116 stinker to an offensively subpar Golden State Warriors squad.

While they seem to be getting their act together in scoring at a good clip again, there’s still no D in Dallas. The Mavericks’ defensive rating on the season (113.4) is actually a worse mark than the Pelicans’ (113.1), and over their last five games, only the Cleveland Cavaliers have suffered more problems on that end of the floor.

In comparing the two teams’ offenses, the Pelicans have proven more formidable all season as well as over the last five games.

So, advantage Zion Williamson and gang? Maybe.

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Luka Doncic should never be overlooked and he’s enjoying the best statistical month of the 2020-21 campaign to date: 29.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.5 threes. With Kristaps Porzingis rounding into form (21.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 2.3 threes in February) and the Mavericks past their issue of a number of players missing games due to health and safety protocols, Dallas will be at full strength.

On paper, the best odds for the Pelicans to find success is to simply play to their advantages. New Orleans is first in the league in 2nd chance points (15.5) and seventh in points in the paint (49.9) on the season. And since January 27th (the start of their six wins in eight games stretch), they’ve posted the seventh highest average of fast break points (14.2).

The Mavericks are 4-8 when their opponent has scored 44 or more points in the paint, 2-8 when the opposition has tallied 16+ fast break points, and 2-7 when opponents have hit or surpassed 15 2nd chance points.

Undoubtedly, this matchup may very well be decided from behind the three-point line. Although the Mavericks have the 2nd worst field goal percentage from deep (34.1%), they’ve shot it better here in February (37.8%). Considering they’re launching 39.7 attempts this month (5th most in the league), the Pelicans cannot allow them to get into a comfort zone. Watching the Chicago Bulls knock down 25 threes a few nights hopefully remains all too fresh in New Orleans’ mind.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (11-13) at Dallas Mavericks (12-14)

When: February 12, 6:30 p.m. Central

Where to watch: FSNO, ESPN

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.