When the Mavs play the first of a home-and-home series tonight against the Pelicans, they'll get the rare early season matchup with potential playoff implications. Dallas was projected to finish just outside the top eight in the Western Conference by most NBA observers, while a handful picked the team to finish near the bottom of the standings. New Orleans, meanwhile, was expected to take a leap forward and see star big man Anthony Davis have an MVP caliber season.
It hasn't quite worked out that way for the Pelicans or Davis. The team has had early injury issues with its starting point guard and small forward. The Brow hasn't quite been able to carry the team on his own. He was averaging 20.8 points on 38 percent shooting before the team's Friday loss to Atlanta.
The Mavs had built some positive momentum with a 2-1 record before back-to-back double digit losses to Toronto and Charlotte. Things could get even uglier if they're not sharp against the Pelicans. Davis broke out 43 points and 10 rebounds against an All-Star Atlanta frontcourt Friday. It's scary to think what he might do against two 30-year-old big men with limited mobility. Let's hope Rick Carlisle has some good adjustments after the Mavs frontcourt got roasted by Al Jefferson Thursday night.
What's new with the Pelicans?
The team's biggest acquisition over the offseason won't suit up for New Orleans this season. New Coach Alvin Gentry was hired away from the Warriors in June after a 67-win season and an NBA championship. Gentry was Steve Kerr's top assistant and was primarily responsible for the offense, a role similar to the one Terry Stotts filled in Dallas in 2010-11.
But the Pelicans oddly didn't invest in more athletic wing players to surround Davis -- the kind of personnel that made the Warriors so tough to match up with last year. Instead, they added or re-signed lumbering centers like Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Kendrick Perkins. All three play the position that Davis manned in New Orleans' most explosive lineups over the last two years.
Which matchup is worth watching?
Davis is the player you tune in to Pelicans games to watch but fans should pay attention to the matchup between shooting guards Wes Matthews and Eric Gordon. Gordon has struggled to stay on the court since New Orleans matched a max contract offer from the Suns in 2012. But he's still an explosive offensive player at times, especially as a three point shooter.
Matthews might be coming off a torn Achilles tendon but he's looked like the team's best perimeter defender so far this season. Dallas must be hoping his scoring (9.5 points per game on 33 percent shooting) eventually comes around, but if he can make things difficult for Gordon that will go a long way toward getting a W against a Pelicans team without many other options.
Who's going to play?
New Orleans' starting point guard Jrue Holiday looks to be out tonight as the team takes a cautious approach to back-to-backs. Holiday has dealt with nagging leg injuries over the last several seasons. Small forward Tyreke Evans also remains out after arthroscopic knee surgery last month. Sans JaVale McGee, Mavs will have a full lineup although Chandler Parsons is on a short minute restriction for the foreseeable future.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CT on FSSW for local viewers. Otherwise, catch the game on League Pass.