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3 things to watch for as the Mavericks travel to New Orleans

Could the intrepid Mavs win three in a row?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas is getting a win streak started with victories against Portland and the Clippers (albeit without Chris Paul or Blake Griffin) in the past week. Dirk Nowitzki returned to start at the five, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are back to bringing their energy and playmaking off the bench, and Harrison Barnes seems to improve every game.

This is the Dallas team many expected to see this season. The playoff picture? Dallas is in a tough spot—Portland and Sacramento’s uneven play has put the 8-seed only four games out of reach, and Dallas appears as though they’ll go for it. The 6-seed, however, is 9 games out of reach. New Orleans is one of the many teams between the Mavericks and the playoffs, and they must be defeated again if Dallas is to make a credible push as a threat.

Dirk Nowitzki must affect Anthony Davis’s defense

Last time these two teams met, Dallas pulled a 91-81 victory out in the fourth quarter when Wesley Matthews got hot from beyond the arc. This time, with Dirk playing the small-ball center role, the big German must drag Davis away from the rim, and make himself available for Harrison Barnes to pass out of isolations when Davis helps.

Keep New Orleans off the free throw line

In wins this season, per NBA.com, The Pelicans are 12th in free throw rate. In losses, they drop to 18th. Dallas must keep the Pelicans, especially Holiday and Davis, off the line if they want to take home another road victory.

Control the glass

Last time these teams met, Dallas out-rebounded the Pelicans by two on the offensive glass and by two on the defensive glass, 46-42 overall. If they are to come out with the win again, Dirk and Barnes will need to hold their own against Davis and the rest of the Pelicans’ front court. The Pelicans win when they get offensive rebounds and clean the defensive glass. In losses, their offensive rebounding percentage drops nearly three percent, and opponents get five percent more of their own misses. Dwight Powell can be especially impactful here in backup minutes at the five against Davis, Terrence Jones (who has been ill and is questionable for the game), Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:00 p.m. central time and can be watched on FSSW.