The Dallas Mavericks will host the New Orleans Pelicans Saturday night in Dallas at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks are fresh off a win against the New York Knicks on Thursday, which they pulled off without franchise superstar Luka Doncic. They’ll have to carry on without Doncic on Saturday, as he’s already been ruled out for the game.
These division games can be important for tiebreakers at the end of the season, and both teams come into the matchup hot, winning four of their last five games. They’ve already played twice, once in New Orleans and once in Dallas, and split those two games. The Pelicans are a half-game ahead of the Mavericks in the standings, but it’s still early in the year.
Dereck Lively II is listed as questionable, as is Maxi Kleber, who has been out for most of the year. Dante Exum is still out. The Pelicans don’t have anyone of note on the injury report.
Here are three things to watch for in the game:
Dallas has to slow down the Pelicans’ fast break
In their last game against New Orleans, Dallas let the Pelicans run away with the game—literally. New Orleans outscored Dallas 46-12 in fast break points. It was a poor effort by the Mavericks getting back on defense, and they can’t let it happen again. They’ve got hustle back to the other end of the court on misses and get organized quickly, or the Pelicans will take advantage once again.
Can the Mavericks own the paint
In that recent loss to the Pelicans, the Mavericks were outscored by 20 in the paint, giving up 60 points in the lane to New Orleans. That can’t happen again. Kyrie Irving has to attack the rim, and the Dallas bigs, whoever is available, have to give maximum effort on guarding the basket. If Zion Williamson is playing to his full potential, containing him in the paint is the only option, as he can get to the bucket at will when he’s on one. But the Mavericks can’t let the rest of the Pelicans, like Brandon Ingram and Dyson Daniels, penetrate and score with ease. They’ve got to wall off the easy baskets in the paint and make the Pelicans take tough 3-pointers.
Continue to take care of the ball
The Mavericks commit the second-fewest turnovers in the league, and they’re decimal points away from having the fewest. The Pelicans, meanwhile, are ninth in the league in forcing opponents to turn the ball over (the Mavericks are actually better, creating the sixth-most turnovers in the league). One way New Orleans can win this game easily is if the Mavericks get sloppy with the ball and give the Pelicans extra possessions with bad turnovers. Dallas has to stay crisp and protect the ball.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. CST on Bally Sports Southwest and NBA League Pass.