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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans @ Dallas Mavericks
The Pelicans have played the Mavericks 3 times this year and have lost every time. One game was a 17-point blowout, but the other two were close losses by 3 points. Despite their winless record against the Mavs, one could easily argue that the Pelicans matches up relatively well with the Mavericks. When games are as close as 3 points I always believe that randomness or luck may have played at a part. Maybe a call was or wasn’t made by the refs, for example. Did anything like that happen against the Mavs? I can’t remember… Well, at any rate, I think this game is winnable.
On the other hand, the Mavs do present a few difficult match ups for the Pelicans on defense. For example, in his 3 games against the Pels, Dirk has played well. He is shooting 50% from the field and the 3-point line (on 20 attempts) against us. Despite Dirks play, I actually think this contest comes down to Jose Calderon. In the previous matchups, the Pelicans struggled mightily on defense, due in part to Calderon being able to run the offense unimpeded as Roberts struggled to get around screens and stick with him. That has led to the Mavs averaging about 106 points a game against the Pels. Yuck.
I went back and looked a bit at the data and film of the previous two match ups and here are my notes for the games.
1) Pick and Roll Defense
Both of our starting guards (Gordon and Roberts), struggle to defend the pick and roll and when they are being screened, while Calderon and Ellis are two of the best offensive pick and roll guards in the NBA, according to synergy stats. While neither Calderon nor Ellis has had monster individual games against the Pels, the issue is more about how they can create for other players.
In the previous match ups, the Mavericks were able to take advantage of our overly aggressive bigs hedging on the pick and roll. Basically, our guard would be lagging behind caught in the screen and our big would be way too far out front, which put the whole defense out of position. This often resulted in a 3-point shot from the wing or open midrange look for Dirk. If the Pels continue to hedge, they need to play it smart and stay in position. More importantly, our guards must get through screens.
2) Rivers over Roberts
This is a goodish match up for Rivers. He is a strong defender on the pick and roll and works hard on defense. I’d like to see him get a few more minutes tonight, since the match up suits him. Also, Roberts has come back down to earth these last two games after shooting pretty well during the month of February. I have already said that I think containing the Mavs guards will be a big part of this game, and Rivers probably gives us the best match up possible.
3) Anthony Davis
As always, Anthony Davis is a major key to the game. Davis is athletic enough that he can play very aggressive on defense and still get back in to position, but I really want to see him have a big game on offense. Davis is so good as a roll man and in transition, but he still has tons of room to grow. At this point in the season, one of our main goals should be giving him a ton of touches on offense so that he can continue to develop. He is averaging 15 attempts per game on the season and 16 attempts during his last five games. I’d like to see that increase. With tanking and playoffs out of the question, we need to have our minds set on the future, which is entirely dependent on AD. Let’s start now.
The game is on ESPN tonight at 7 PM central. Enjoy!
Unless I'm mistake, excluding NBATV, this is our second nationally televised game of the season. I was in the Arena (Center) for the T'Wolves game so I look forward to hearing what national guys think about us. I just wish half the roster wasn't injured so we could put on a better show for a larger audience.