Behind the Numbers presented by HUB International: Pelicans at Mavericks (3/4/18)

by Jim Eichenhofer

A look at three key numbers related to Sunday’s game at the American Airlines Center between New Orleans and Dallas (6 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM): 

4: With a victory Sunday, New Orleans (35-26) would move into fourth place in the Western Conference, a level that the franchise has not competed for in about a decade. A lengthy winning streak, which began Feb. 10 – combined with recent struggles by teams such as San Antonio (1-6 in that timeframe) and Minnesota (4-4) – has put the Pelicans in position to contend for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans was a No. 2 seed in the 2008 West postseason, but that was the last time this club owned the homecourt edge in any playoff series. The then-Hornets were a No. 7 seed in both 2009 and 2011, while the renamed Pelicans were eighth-seeded in 2015. The ’09 team came closest to a No. 4 seed, finishing five games behind Portland that season. While New Orleans has recently gained 6.0 and 3.5 games on the Spurs and Timberwolves, respectively, most of the other West playoff hopefuls have played well of late, including Portland (6-1 since Feb. 10), Denver (6-2), Utah (6-2), Oklahoma City (6-3) and the Clippers (5-3).

8: New Orleans rank among the 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency since the beginning of its seven-game winning streak, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions. By comparison, from the start of the regular season through Feb. 9, the Pelicans were the league’s 21st-best team at that end of the floor, with a defensive rating of 107.0. It’s important not to measure the New Orleans defense lately in terms of points surrendered per game, because the Pelicans are now playing at the NBA’s fourth-fastest pace – which results in more possessions for both teams – and they’ve also played four overtime periods during their streak.

3: Dallas’ total scoring margin vs. New Orleans in a pair of head-to-head games this season. Despite the Mavericks’ poor record of 19-44, which places them near the bottom of the West standings, they have been very competitive against the Pelicans. New Orleans eked out a 99-94 road victory in Texas on Nov. 3, but Dallas answered Dec. 29 in the Smoothie King Center by a 128-120 margin. The season series between the two Southwest Division squads is symbolic of NOLA’s success on the road, but relative struggles at home. For much of the campaign, the Pelicans had a better away record than at home, but that has changed recently, partly based on an 8-3 mark in Smoothie King Center since Jan. 1. Back-to-back home defeats in late December to Dallas and New York may have served as a turning point for New Orleans on its home floor.