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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks take on the Pelicans

Rick Carlisle & Co. have plenty of areas to key in on.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Just like that, the Mavericks are 1-8, and I've come to talk with you again. Because a vision, softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains. Within the sound of silence.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

Tonight, the Mavs take on the New Orleans Pelicans (3-5) at the American Airlines Center, looking to scrap some sort of consistent quality play together. Here are a few things we should pay attention to as the Mavericks search for an identity.

How will the Mavericks match up in the post?

Wednesday night, after a solid start offensively, the Mavericks met a brick wall on both ends of the floor. A combination of mediocre offense and porous defense led to a quick and large deficit that was impossible to come back from.

With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to deal with, the Mavs gave up 48 points in the paint—unbelievably only the third most in a game this season. But look who's waiting: how do the Mavericks deal with what will probably be the most lethal starting front court in the league in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins?

In garbage time against the Clippers, Rick Carlisle trotted out his Dallas Ents lineup of Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri and Jeff Withey (with Yogi Ferrell).

While it's unlikely we'll see much of that lineup in a competitive setting, the Mavs will have to find rim protection in some combination, if they want to give themselves a chance.

Who gets their name called?

Rick Carlisle opted to replace Nerlens Noel in the starting lineup, going with Devin Harris against the Clippers (outside of Noel's foul issues, it was perhaps odd considering the front court they were dealing with).

It is standard Carlisle to tinker with lineups and rotations, especially when so little is working. But what will we get this time? Even when Seth Curry returns, whenever that is, it wouldn't be surprising to see Carlisle continue to throw noodles against the wall to see what sticks.

Points of focus

There are plenty of areas in which the Mavericks need to be better (see: all). But we can look at two specific points. First, for the Mavs to stay competitive in any game they need to be efficient—take care of the ball and limit wasted possessions. So far, that's not happening. It's early, but the Mavericks are currently averaging 15 turnovers per game. That would be their worst mark since the 1996-97 season.

In some ways it should be expected with a rookie point guard (DSJ leads the team with 3.6 per game; Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea are the other two biggest offenders). Still, the Mavs need to shore this up and stop shooting themselves in the foot.

Second, the Mavericks are just flat out not shooting. Or...they are, but it isn't going in. Just basic raw stats:

  • 38 percent from three, 8th in the league (solid)
  • 44 percent from two, 28th in the league (bad)
  • 41 percent overall, 29th in the league (awful)

Plus, they’re 21st in free-throw attempts per game. What story does that tell? The Mavs are settling for bad shots inside the perimeter. In their only win this season they made a point of going to the basket continuously.

That needs to happen tonight if this team wants a shot at another win.

How to watch

Tonight’s game is on Fox Sports Southwest if you live in the Dallas area and on NBA League Pass if you don’t. Tip off is at 7:30pm Central.