Mavericks @ Pelicans December 29 Free Pick


Rajon Rondo put his name on an exclusive list Wednesday night when he dished out 25 assists in New Orleans’ win over Brooklyn. He became the seventh player to ever drop 25 dimes in a game and the oldest to do so. He also recorded the 25 in just 30 minutes, the least playing time of anybody on that list.

Tonight, he will go up against Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas’ rookie point guard who is quickly growing into the Mavericks’ best player. Smith went out with a groin injury a few weeks ago and the Mavs went 1–5 without him. Since he has returned, plus a few games prior to the injury, they are 8–6 with him. With him, the offense is averaging eight more points and the defense is giving up two fewer. Just about the only thing Dallas does worse with Smith Jr. in the lineup is turn the ball over. But it’s only a difference of one per game, a small price to pay for all the good things Smith brings to the table.

Both teams have modest win streaks going, but its Rondo’s Pelicans that are favored to extend theirs; they are giving six-and-a-half points on their home floor.

Free Pick

These two teams played on November 3 in Dallas before Rondo had made his season debut and when Nerlens Noel was still Dallas’ starting center. The Pelicans won by five because the Mavs couldn’t stop Anthony Davis, who scored 30 points, nor Boogie Cousins, who scored 20 points and grabbed 22 rebounds.

Stopping those two monsters could still potentially be a huge problem for the Mavericks. With Noel out of the picture now, Maximilian Kleber will probably body Cousins. Dirk Nowitzki isn’t fit to defend either Cousins or Davis but he’ll have to cover one of them and it’s most likely to be Davis. Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri will try their luck off the bench.

But those two bigs of New Orleans have been turning the ball over at a prolific pace, especially Cousins, who is averaging 5.5 a game, which is up over 50 percent from his career rate that was already high. A lot of the turnovers are a result of sloppiness with the ball and indisciplined play. Dallas doesn’t have a lot of talent, but Rick Carlisle coaches his teams well and as a result, the Mavericks play hard and smart. It makes for a bit of a classic matchup of a smart, gritty and hardworking team against a talented, yet a little lazy and unorganized group.

The Mavericks have two wins in a row for the third time this season after a home win over Toronto and a road win over Indiana (without Victor Oladipo). The previous two times the Mavs had won back-to-back games, they lost the third. New Orleans’ win streak is also at a maximum. The Pelicans beat Orlando, Miami and Brooklyn and have their third three-game winning streak of the season. They, also, lost the next one in the two previous streaks.

New Orleans’ talent is undeniable but it is equally as inconsistent. Dallas, meanwhile, seems to be playing better basketball on the whole and no longer looks like the worst team in the West, even though it still is. I think the Mavs are a live dog in this one and, though it may not win, it’ll keep the game close and be more likely to cover than not.

Free Pick: Dallas +6.5

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