The New Orleans travel to face the Dallas Mavericks in a Western conference between a veteran team struggling to establish its identity and a young team finding a way to keep up momentum in a charge towards the playoff places despite being denied the services of its elite player, Anthony Davis, due to injury.
The Pelicans are going for a sixth consecutive win, a streak that has happened while the team has been missing not only Davis, but also power forward Ryan Anderson and point guard Jrue Holiday (sidelined since early January). All three should return at some point in March, but none have firm deadlines at this point. Between them they had averaged more than half of the team’s average points, but New Orleans has found a way to keep win beating Miami twice, Toronto, Brooklyn and Denver.
Tyreke Evans has been running the show in the absence of the big men and he’s done a pretty good job of it averaging 16.4 points and 9.4 assists per game on the streak. Meanwhile, Alexis Ajinca has added some much needed punch on the front-court from the bench. He is averaging 15 points and 6.8 rebounds per game over the last four contests. New Orleans have a chance to jump into the eighth spot leapfrogging the inactive Thunder with a win tonight.
It’s been a little less “rosy” in Dallas as the Mavericks continue to struggle for consistent form. They’ve slipped to sixth in the standings and they’re only six games up on the Pelicans themselves. If these two teams continue trending in their current directions, then Dallas could come under pressure.
They’ve lost their last two games convincingly, to Atlanta and Brooklyn respectively, and even their last victory was somewhat tarnished by an on-court altercation between point guard Rajon Rondo and head coach Rick Carlisle.
Chandler Parsons will miss this game and there’s a chance that center Tyson Chandler will also be sidelined. The Mavericks will have some work to do if they are going to make up for the loss of those two absentees.
A lot of the focus will be on the currently carefully managed Dirk Nowitzki. Does the 36-year old still have the ability to lead a team out of a poor run of form? He put forward a strong effort against the Nets scoring 20 points and picking up six rebounds, but it was in vein. On average Dirk’s point totals have been coming down as each month of the season passes, he averaged just 15.0 points per game in February after scoring 19.4 in November. He’ll need to reverse that trend for Dallas to enjoy success in March and establish strong seeding.
Betting Preview: New Orleans Pelicans (+9) at Dallas Mavericks
The odds makers know the challenge in picking a game like this. They’ve adjusted odds as much as possible to encourage the bet on New Orleans, who are depleted. However, Monty Williams has got this team playing good basketball. They play well on defense, and Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon are not fluky flash in the pan offensive player, they are real talents.
Rondo is not on the same page as Carlisle and the absence of Parsons and Chandler will affect the Mavericks. Monta Ellis had a difficult month in February averaging just 14.8 points and hitting only .389 on his field goal attempts.
The Pick: New Orleans (+9) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 28-23