The Pelicans are coming off a close loss to the Timberwolves as they head to Dallas. DeMarcus Cousins was outstanding yet again posting a stat line of 35 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Davis played heavy minutes (43), allowing him to put up a double-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. It’s been the tale of New Orleans’ season: Cousins and Davis dominating but not being able to translate their dominance into wins. As a result, the Pelicans sit 3-5.
Dallas also have their problems. In fact, they have several more than the Pelicans. The Mavericks only have one win and were blown out by the Clippers in their most recent outing by 21 points. Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. was their best player, contributing 18 points, though they did come with six turnovers. There will certainly be growing pains with Smith and the players around him
are going to have to step up.
It can’t be left to a 39-year-old in Dirk Nowitzki, though the German veteran was serviceable against the Clippers with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Players like Harrison Barnes, Yogi Ferrell and Wesley Matthews are going to have to lift their game for Dallas to change their fortunes as the season progresses.
Three keys to the game
Forcing turnovers – Surprisingly, New Orleans are one of the best assisting teams in the NBA. They possess an assist percentage of 61.6 (fourth in the NBA) and an assist ratio of 17.8 (fifth in the NBA). The Mavericks are also in the top ten for assist percentage (ninth) and it will be crucial that both teams be on their game to disrupt each other’s passing games. Whoever can force and maximize the other team’s turnovers will make the game a lot easier for them.
Generating offense – The Mavericks have struggled so far this season on the offensive end. Their best offensive player, Harrison Barnes, has had a subpar start to his season and is averaging a touch over 16 points per game on less than 40% from field and just over 31% from beyond the arc. Smith has shown flashes while on the other side Nowitzki is showing his age. As a collective, they’ll need to improve to stand a chance of beating the Pelicans.
Supporting the big two – The Pelicans big men have been outstanding but their support cast has been average at best. Jrue Holiday has had his moments, averaging 14.9 points and 6 assists per game. If he can bring those numbers up just a touch, then he’ll ease the load on Davis and Cousins significantly.
Matchup to watch
DeMarcus Cousins vs Nerlens Noel – Cousins is displaying MVP form. His play has been outstanding and he’s putting up historic numbers. Nerlens Noel is in a tricky situation with Dallas after turning down a hefty contract offer before the season. However, that doesn’t diminish his elite defensive capabilities. He’s motivated to have a big season to earn another possible massive pay day, whether that be from the Mavericks or another team. One of the best defensive centers comes up against the best all-round center; this will be fun.
New Orleans Pelicans projected starting lineup
PG – Jrue Holiday | SG – E’Twaun More | SF – Dante Cunningham | PF – Anthony Davis | C – DeMarcus Cousins
Dallas Mavericks projected starting lineup
PG – Dennis Smith Jr. | SG – Wesley Matthews | SF – Harrison Barnes | PF – Nerlens Noel | C – Dirk Nowitzki
Cousins has been an absolute stud this season. He’s averaging some astronomical numbers: 30.1 points, 13 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.1 steals and 2.3 blocks. If those numbers aren’t proof enough for him to be the top fantasy tip, then what is? Davis has also been great playing second fiddle, averaging over 27 points, 12 rebounds and more than a block and steal per game. Look no further than ‘Fire and Ice’ for your fantasy team in this outing.
New Orleans are three-point favorites, look for them to cover against a Mavericks team that has lost four straight.
The Pelicans’ dynamic duo prove too much for a struggling Mavericks team. Look for Dallas to make it close until two of the game’s best big men prove too much to handle. New Orleans win this, 104-94.
Catch the game on League Pass, Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports New Orleans. Tip-off is at 8.30pm ET at American Airlines Center.
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