Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Mavericks - January 10, 2014

Pelicans vs. Mavericks Game Preview

It may still be a bit early in the long 82-game NBA regular season to call any matchup a make-or-break one for a team, but the New Orleans Pelicans begin what appears to be an important weekend Friday night, hosting the Dallas Mavericks. Friday’s game is the first of a home-and-home set with the Mavericks, which concludes Saturday in Big D.

New Orleans, which hopes to return to the Western Conference playoffs this season for the first time since 2011, is chasing several teams in its attempt to move into the top eight of the standings. Dallas is holding on to the coveted eighth spot, four games ahead of New Orleans, making head-to-head meetings with the Mavericks imperative for the Pelicans.

Dallas struck first in the annual four-game season series between the two Southwest Division clubs, posting a 100-97 victory in New Orleans on Dec. 4. The best player in Mavericks franchise history, Dirk Nowitzki paced the visitors with 21 points. The Pelicans’ top player that night was point guard Jrue Holiday, who piled up 26 points and nine assists. All five members of the New Orleans starting lineup reached double figures in scoring, but it wasn’t quite enough to overtake Dallas. The Pelicans were playing without Anthony Davis, who had broken a bone in his left hand just three days earlier at New York.

While the Pelicans are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, with a core group of players 25 and under, the Mavericks have shaped their roster around veterans. Nowitzki is 35, while free-agent pickups Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis are 32 and 28, respectively. The new starting backcourt of Calderon and Ellis has been instrumental in the Mavericks’ winning record early in 2013-14.

Pelicans Anthony Davis
Intriguing matchup: Power forward
Anthony Davis vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Due to the combination of an unfavorable schedule and injuries, Pelicans fans haven’t gotten to see much of Davis lately. The second-year standout only played in two December home games, missing the Dec. 4 matchup vs. Dallas. Davis gets his first chance of the season to face Nowitzki, the 2011 NBA Finals MVP and the greatest shooter in history among 7-footers. Davis averaged just 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds vs. the Mavericks as a rookie, but has been one of the NBA’s most improved players in 2013-14.
Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki