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Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans preview: Will a motivated Rondo strike back?

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THE MAVERICKS WILL EITHER WIN OR LOSE.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What have the Pelicans done lately?

The Pellies come into tonight's matchup on something of an interesting streak. They've won their last two against the Lakers and Timberwolves -- as they should have -- but the previous two games were a loss to the Knicks and a win against the Raptors. Sitting at 22-21, they're a few games out of the Western Conference playoff picture, and continue to be bitten by the injury bug with Jrue Holiday out 2-4 weeks with a leg injury. Anthony Davis was just voted in as an All-Star starter, though, which is a nice bright spot for the team.

What's the biggest matchup to watch?

I'm interested to see if Dirk can continue to play well after a couple of slump-busting games in a row while being guarded by an athletic talent like Anthony Davis. So far in Davis' young career, he hasn't shown the ability to slow the Big German down, but Davis blocks more jump shots than anyone in the league and has the skills to be one of the toughest defenders in the NBA. At least for Dirk, he's certainly quieting a lot of the concern that many writers, including ours, have been expressing -- and we would be more than happy to not have to speculate anymore.

Which Mavericks player might be due for a big game?

After being benched in favor of Devin Harris down the stretch in the loss to the Bulls the other night, I would imagine Rajon Rondo has something to prove. Both Rick Carlisle and Rondo refused to say anything other than "coach's decision" in regards to that decision. But Rondo was brought in to elevate the level of play on this team, and a test against a division opponent should prove to be a good opportunity to continue to earn Carlisle's trust.

What do the Mavericks need to do to be successful against New Orleans?

Don't let them get out in transition. The Pelicans will struggle to score against Dallas' much improved half court defense because their offensive talents are guards and a center, which coincide with the Mavericks' defensive strengths. Tyson Chandler can handle Davis better than most bigs in this league and Rondo can take Eric Gordon or even Tyreke Evans, if needed. Dallas doesn't have a shutdown wing defender outside of the infrequently played Aminu, of course, but New Orleans has no one of real concern at that position, so that's a mute point.

Dallas will give up some offensive rebounds and that's just a way of life, but they must limit the transition opportunities and force New Orleans into scoring against their half court as often as possible.

Game Information

Tip off is at 5 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest.