After impressive back-to-back wins against Eastern conference playoff contenders, the Mavericks (11-25) travel to New Orleans to face off with the Pelicans (18-16) who are on a three-game win streak after taking care of the Nets, Heat and Magic.
The last time these two teams played, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis proved to be too much as they combined for 50 points, 35 rebounds and 11 assists pushing the Pelicans to a 99-94 victory.
Both teams have won three of their last five games, and familiar divisional foes always seem to play close matchups. Here’s what to watch for Friday night.
Protecting the paint
The Mavericks put up little resistance the first time these squads faced off, as evidenced by Boogie and Davis’ monster combined stat line and the 50 points scored in the paint and 60 rebounds grabbed by the Pelicans. New Orleans had their way with the Mavericks down low, and it largely impacted the outcome of the game.
On the season, the Mavericks allow a league-best 39.4 points in the paint per game, while the Pelicans are scoring a second-best 50.2 points in the paint. It will be strength against strength and a battle worth watching that could determine the outcome of the game.
Can the Mavs defense remain stingy
Last night, Mark Followill tweeted out this intriguing stat:
Mavs on a 20 game stretch now of allowing 99 ppg - 2nd best scoring defense in the league since Nov. 28— Mark Followill (@MFollowill) December 28, 2017
That’s really impressive when you consider the Mavs don’t have one lock-down defensive player, unless you count Wesley Matthews. Either way, the Mavs are playing fundamentally sound team defense, and it’s keeping the Mavericks in almost every game they play.
Unfortunately, in that same time frame, the Pelicans have the fourth best offensive rating (113.1) and are scoring the second most points per game in entire league (115.3). Maybe Maxi Kleber is the glue that has held the Mavericks’ defense together during this stretch, or maybe it’s Rick Carlisle’s wizardry. Whatever it is, the Mavs will need a lot of it to slow down a Pelicans squad that’s on a tear offensively.
The Mavs are now 3-14 on the road, meaning they are tied with Atlanta for the worst road record in the NBA. And even with the impressive defense displayed in the current 20 game stretch, Dallas still owns a 112.3 defensive rating on the road compared to a 98.4 rating at home. If the Mavs are going to make it three in a row, they will need to pull out all the stops defensively and hope for some lucky bounces. Boogie and The Brow are more than enough to corral. Last thing the Mavs need is for Rajon Rondo to pass out 25 assists like he did on Wednesday.
How to watch
Tip off is at 7 p.m. central and can be watched on FSSW locally and NBA League pass out of market.