Published: December 4, 2013
On a magical day that combines both hump day and game day, the Pelicans return home after a 3-0 road trip to face the division rival Mavericks. A win by New Orleans would allow them to jump Dallas in the standings, as both would then be two games over .500 but would give the Pels the edge by percentage points. Dallas started off the season hot, but have struggled as of late with losses in four out of their last six contests. That being said, the Mavs come into this game with their expected starting lineup of Calderon-Ellis-Marion-Nowitzki-Dalembert all healthy and ready to go, something the Pelicans cannot claim.
First, a little good news – the absence of Anthony Davis should not impact New Orleans as much as it would against some other teams. Dallas has no single player who thrives going to work in the paint, and as a team they’re around league average in points in the paint per game. Dirk will always be Dirk, but outside of him, New Orleans shouldn’t be overly devastated without Davis protecting the rim. In addition, the Mavs are in the league’s bottom 5 when it comes to second chance points per game, another stat that may help ease the minds of those worried about how this team will perform without AD. Adjusting to the loss of a team’s best player is never easy, but in terms of match-ups, it could be worse.
Now, the bad news. The Pelicans are in the bottom third of the NBA in both 3-point attempts allowed and 3-point percentage allowed this season, leading to giving up the worst opponents’ effective field goal percentage (FG% which accounts for the added value of a 3-point shot) in the NBA. Conversely, the Mavericks are in the top 10 in the NBA in 3-pointers attempted per game, 3-point percentage, and effective field goal percentage. Dallas is right around average in basically every other meaningful statistical category not mentioned yet, so it’s pretty clear what New Orleans has to do defensively to keep Dallas in check – defend the perimeter.
As for how the Pels can succeed on the offensive end – one glaring weakness of the Mavs is their tendency to foul shooters at a high rate. While Dallas’ 21 fouls per game isn’t outrageously high (league low is 17 per game, league high is 23 per game), they allow 28 free throws per game, the worst in the NBA. This news bodes well for New Orleans due to their trio of attacking guards in Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans. For the Pelicans to win this one, that group has to attack the rim relentlessly and not settle for mid-range jump shots. It’s no secret that the back court combo of Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis is a weak pairing defensively; Jrue, Eric, and Tyreke should be able to take advantage. That being said, both the Mavericks and the Pelicans rank in the league’s top 20% in opponents’ turnover percentage, so if either team is sloppy offensively, the other will likely make them pay for it.
Enjoy the game!