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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks visit the Pelicans

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Dallas and New Orleans battle again as the Mavericks try to claw back to .500.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling 122-119 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans (15-20) Wednesday night, the Dallas Mavericks (16-17) travel to New Orleans to face the Pelicans for the third time this season.

Wednesday’s nail biter saw Luka Doncic on the cusp of history as he almost became the youngest player to record a triple double, but he fell short by one rebound. Anthony Davis was his usual dominant self scoring 32 points and snatching 18 rebounds. And Maxi Kleber stepped into the starting lineup and swatted practically every shot put up.

It will be a tall order for the Mavericks to pick up a second consecutive win against the Pelicans, so here’s what to watch for when these two teams tip.

More lineup changes

It’s hard to imagine anyone could have predicted the impact Maxi Kleber would have on the game when news broke he was being inserted into the starting lineup. With Davis and Julius Randle, the Pelicans are stout up front, so the move made sense on paper, but watching Kleber erase six shots was an incredible feat.

It appears Carlisle will have to play the right note again as reports indicate Wesley Matthews will sit out because of a sore right foot. With Dennis Smith Jr. listed as questionable, it stands to reason he makes his return to action which means we could see our first Smith/Luka Doncic/Harrison Barnes/Kleber/DeAndre Jordan starting lineup.

On Wednesday the Mavericks opted to have Barnes guard Jrue Holiday which doesn’t evoke too much confidence for even the most staunch Barnes supporters. The return of Smith would give the Mavericks a much better option at guarding one of the more underrated guards in the NBA.

Defense

Wednesday’s game was decided by who missed last. The Mavericks took the lead on free throws and survived when Davis missed an open three from straight away. Tonight’s game will likely be the same as the Pelicans, who score the second most points per game in the NBA, top their 116 point per night average by dropping 120 points per game at home.

Dallas won the game, but they played with fire allowing Davis, Randle and Holiday to score 32, 23 and 25 respectively. Those numbers could all increase at home, believe it or not, so it’s important that the Mavericks dig in defensively and set the tone early. On the road, Dallas allows the home team to shoot 38 percent from three, so the Mavericks will have to be ready to weather the inevitable storms in New Orleans.

Julius Randle

Maybe it’s because he’s a Dallas native, but Randle seems to play his best ball against the Mavericks no matter what uniform he dons. He averages 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against the Mavericks which are all top-two career marks. Randle poses a matchup problem for the Mavericks who have traditionally played undersized. Ultimately, Randle is too quick for burly centers but too strong for quicker, smaller forwards. The chess move of starting Kleber certainly slowed Randle down, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts. He could bury the Mavericks early or allow the Mavericks to hang around.

How to watch

The game tips off of 7 PM and can be watched on NBATV or Fox Sports Southwest.