Fresh off a dominant performance against the Memphis Grizzlies in the home-opener over the weekend, the Dallas Mavericks (1-1) pay a visit to the New Orleans Pelicans (2-1) Tuesday evening. Luka Doncic & Co., having the benefit of multi-rest days between each game so far, should look fresh in the early tip-off after making light work of the Grizzlies (Doncic was the only Mavericks player to reach 30-minutes of playing time).
The Pelicans have started the season on solid footing, defeating both the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets on the road before falling to the surprise Utah Jazz at home Sunday night. While the outcome was unexpected, it also came at the expense of Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram leaving the game early with a head injury and Zion Williamson exiting the game early in the fourth after a nasty fall.
Here is what we’ll be watching for in New Orleans!
Rest vs the banged up Pelicans
At the time of this writing Williamson and starting forward Herb Jones are listed as questionable and Ingram is out while in concussion protocol. The Pelicans have also played three games in the same span of time the Mavericks have played just two. Watch for the difference in energy levels between the two teams. Granted, it’s the start of the season so energy shouldn’t be an issue. But the Mavericks should have a distinct advantage in this regard. And if Williamson and/or Jones join Ingram on the bench, Dallas should establish themselves early.
This game also kicks off the first real scheduling test for the Mavericks after easing into play. Tuesday’s game will be the first of four over six days, with a home back-to-back over the weekend. The Mavericks offense has looked solid early, but with how reliant they are on the high usage of both Luka Doncic and Christian Wood it will be important to put games away when they have rest advantage.
Christian Wood has shot 24 free throws in 49 minutes of basketball this season. After a pitiful performance at the line on opening night against the Phoenix Suns (3-of-10 on free throws) Wood owned up to the mistake. In Dallas Saturday he was spectacular, hitting 12-of-14 free throw attempts. It is important to note that Wood is a career 67-percent shooter from the charity stripe, so the answer is most nights he’ll fall somewhere between those two.
Keep close eye on this Tuesday night. If Wood continues to draw fouls at the rate he is now, good things are happening. Beyond shooting percentage it is such a boon for the Mavericks to have a big man that is able to draw fouls. Wood is currently fourth in the league in fouls drawn per game at 7.5, and Luka is just behind him 7 fouls drawn per game (tied for 5th). For many seasons Doncic has been the only Maverick capable of consistently drawing contact and sending the team to the bonus. Adding Wood to that is massive.
Story of the boards
The New Orleans Pelicans have been the best rebounding team in the league in this early season. The Dallas Mavericks lead the league in limiting opponents on the boards this season. Some of that is from the Mavericks controlling pace (22nd in the NBA), and some of that is from two lopsided games. But Dallas has done a solid job of keeping the other team off the glass.
The Pelicans are averaging 15.9 offensive boards per game (1st in the league), and the Mavericks are giving up just 7.1 opponent offensive rebounds per game (1st in the league). Something will have to give Tuesday night. If Williamson doesn’t play the Mavericks may have less to worry about. But starting center Jonas Valanciunas is always a bear to face, and limiting his six offensive boards per game could prove vital.
How to watch
Tip-off is set for 6:30 CT and can be watched nationally on TNT, or locally at Bally Sports Southwest and the Bally Sports app.