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Mavericks vs. Pelicans Preview, again: 4 things to watch for as we run it back in New Orleans

Now with In-Season Tournament implications!

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on November 12, 2023 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/NBAE via Getty Images

Let’s run that one back, shall we, Mavs fans?

The Dallas Mavericks (8-2) meet the New Orleans Pelicans (4-6) again Tuesday night at the Smoothie King Center after the Mavs took the Pels apart Sunday, 136-124, in a game that was not anywhere as close as the final score may have indicated. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST on Bally Sports Southwest.

Kyrie Irving went nuclear in transition, converting 7-of-10 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 35 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. He’s now 12-of-19 from deep in his last two games after his slow shooting start became a talking point. Luka added 30 points and nine assists while, extra value alert, sitting the entire fourth quarter. Tim Hardaway Jr. chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds as five Mavs scored in double figures.

Sunday was the second game in a row that featured a decisive 40-point offensive onslaught — this time in the third quarter, when the Mavs outscored the Pelicans 42-31. The offense in general has been humming to start the season, to the tune of second in overall offensive rating (121.8) and the second-lowest turnover rate as a team.

Here are four things to watch for as the Mavericks try to turn Tuesday into a carbon copy of Sunday.

Let Kyrie Cook

Hold up. Let Kyrie cook, man. With 62 points on 12-of-19 3-point shooting in his last two games, it seems like Irving is over any lingering effects from the foot injury he was dealing with to start the year.

But what stands out more than Irving’s individual stat line in the first game at New Orleans was the way Irving and Luka Dončić played off one another. It was a thing of beauty. It was fluid. Nothing sums it up better than the play in the second quarter when Irving found a streaking Dončić in the lane for an easy layup to put the Mavs up 58-42 with less than five minutes to go before the half.

Pace and fast-break opportunities

This has to be the most repeated stat of the young season, but after finishing 28th in pace last year, the Mavericks are sitting at ninth in the NBA (101.8) after 10 games. That improved pace showed up in a big way in the first win at New Orleans, as the Mavs outscored the Pelicans convincingly, 28-13, in fast-break points.

“Our pace is different than what we’re used to,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said after Sunday’s win. “The guys have really bought into and trusted that we could play faster and also play with the pass. You saw that [Sunday] and you saw that against the Clippers.”

The team’s improved pace goes hand-in-hand with the improvement in chemistry between the stars Dončić and Irving, as well as with the quick integration into that chemistry of key roster additions like Grant Williams, Dereck Lively II and Derrick Jones Jr., apparently.

Holding Zion in check

The Pelicans’ one-man wrecking crew Zion Williamson scored just 18 points and grabbed just two rebounds in Sunday’s loss. But that may not have had as much to do with any stellar defense the Mavs played as much as some things that are going on within the Pelicans organization. He said in postgame comments:

“Last year, we had a team meeting and we brought up some things I can do better, especially with buying into the program. Right now, it’s tough. I’m taking a little bit of a backseat right now. I’m trusting the process. I’m trying my best to buy in right now.”

Williamson also admitted in the offseason that he dealt with issues with his weight, so there has been a lot going on there in recent months. Williamson is averaging 21.6 and 6.5 rebounds to start his fourth NBA season, down from his 25.5 career scoring average. Forward Brandon Ingram led the Pels with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists Sunday.

Turnover differential

This may be the most impressive thing the Mavericks are doing this year that fans aren’t talking about enough. And that’s probably because it’s nowhere near as sexy as a lob to Lively or a pullup 3-ball in transition from Irving. They’re taking care of the ball.

That this is happening at the same time as the Mavs start to run more, which often leads to more turnovers, is especially impressive. Dallas is averaging 11.7 turnovers per game through 10 games, which trails only the Chicago Bulls, who are turning it over 11.1 times per game. Oddly enough, the Bulls and the Mavs each turned the ball over 13 times in Chicago’s Nov. 1 visit to the American Airlines Center, a 114-105 Mavericks win.

The Mavs committed just six turnovers against the Pelicans on Sunday, after committing just eight in the team’s previous win against the Clippers. Irving credited this fundamentally sound mantra in his postgame comments:

“It’s easy to play that way when you’re not turning the ball over, you’re keeping the other team off the free throw line, you’re getting stops consecutively,” Irving said. “You have spurts of four or five minutes when a play isn’t being called. it’s just constant pace, running, running to our spots, and we’re just remembering the little details that make us a great squad. ... The question that we have to answer is whether or not we can be consistent with it.”

How to watch

Tipoff for the Dallas Mavericks at the New Orleans Pelicans is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST. The game will be televised locally on Bally Sports Southwest.