Mavericks vs. Pelicans Preview: Why Williamson and New Orleans Will Dominate Inside

Kenny Ducey breaks down Tuesday's Mavericks vs. Pelicans NBA matchup and shares his best bet.

Mavericks vs. Pelicans Odds

Mavericks Odds -196
Pelicans Odds +164
Over/Under 225.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The season has started in eventful fashion for the Mavericks, who fumbled away a win on opening night against the Suns only to come through against the Grizzlies over the weekend in decisive fashion.

Perhaps Thursday’s game against the Pelicans will see Dallas settle in a bit after a volatile start, or perhaps Zion Williamson has other ideas. Let’s get into how to bet on this one.

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Mavericks Offense Surging Early

It’s hard not to get excited about the Mavericks right now. Sure, they blew a 22-point lead in Phoenix on opening night. That was bad! It was also against a consensus title contender and an elite offense. On top of that, the Suns are an incredibly difficult team to beat at home, if we learned anything from last year.

So, yes, the Mavericks could easily be 2-0 heading into this nationally-televised game against the Pelicans. We learned in the first two games that they’re excellent at starting games, as shown by their +45 Point Differential in both first halves they’ve played, and both the Suns and Grizzlies managed just 81 total points in those four quarters. The Mavericks are also atop the league so far in Offensive Efficiency.

Christian Wood has also stood out in the early going. He is coming off the bench and absolutely torching second units, posting a 137 Offensive Rating and 103.9 Defensive Rating when on the court, according to When he’s off the floor, those numbers have dropped to 107.1 and 101, respectively.

Wood and Luka Doncic also have combined to form a pretty incredible two-man lineup in 31 minutes so far this year, posting a 147.6 Offensive Rating. It’s the most fruitful two-man combination on the Mavericks right now of any pair which have shared the floor for at least 20 minutes.

Wood’s length is creating real issues for second units, and it seems unlikely the Mavericks will change up their rotation anytime soon. JaVale McGee is starting, Wood is coming in behind him, and Dwight Powell is struggling to find time on the court.

Will the Pelicans Continue Dominance Down Low?

The Mavericks are an exciting team, but the Pelicans are a very exciting team. They’ve yet to trail in a game this year, and they’re positioned in a very close third place to the Mavs in Offensive Rating.

One thing that’s returned so far for the Pelicans, aside from Zion Williamson (more on him in a minute), is rebounding. New Orleans dominated just about everyone on the glass last season and has begun by snatching 56.7% of available boards, good for first in the league. The Pelicans are also allowing just 58.2% shooting inside of six feet, which ranks among the top 10 in the league.

Their preference to play inside is rather extreme. No team has attempted fewer 3-point shots per game than the Pelicans thus far, who are taking just 25 per game on average. For reference, they’re averaging 97.7 field goal attempts per game. Williamson, specifically, hasn’t attempted a three yet this season and has scored all but one of his baskets at the rim.

The Pelicans are sadly already dealing with some injuries right now; Brandon Ingram is currently on the mend after a collision in Sunday’s loss to the Jazz left him with a concussion, and he will miss this one. Williamson is questionable with a lower back contusion, as is Herbert Jones, who hyperextended his right knee.

Mavericks-Pelicans Pick

Assuming Williamson plays in this one, the Pelicans are an awfully intriguing play. Wood has been a menace down low so far this season, taking 59.3% of his shots from inside 10 feet. The Mavericks’ Rebounding Rate also increases by around 3% with Wood on the floor.

The Pelicans can combat this. We mentioned above that they’ve been excellent at defending in the paint, and they’re also going to provide competition for rebounds, which Wood has not seen yet. There are other factors in this game like Doncic and CJ McCollum, but the real battle here which could tip the scales is going to happen in the paint.

I haven’t seen a team as physically imposing down low as the Pelicans in recent years and have faith that they will neutralize Dallas inside with their excellence on the glass and the unstoppable force that is Williamson. I’ll take the points at +5.5 on PointsBet at -107 and play to +3.5 if Zion is indeed in the lineup.

Pick: Pelicans +5.5 (-110)