After displaying one of the league’s most explosive offenses during the first half of the season, the Dallas Mavericks have slowed a bit.
While they continue trying to recapture their early-season form, the Mavericks look to pick up a historic win for coach Rick Carlisle and beat the New Orleans Pelicans for a tenth consecutive time Sunday night.
Dallas (30-14) had won three straight entering Friday’s matchup with Chicago, but was dominated inside in a 102-98 loss. The Mavericks grabbed only 30 rebounds – one more than their season low – compared to the Bulls’ 47.
"You know, we’ve just got to get a little bit better," veteran Dirk Nowitzki told the team’s official website. "We’re not the most physical, athletic front line, so we’ve all got to get in there (and rebound) …
"I always think that when we keep the board game sort of close and keep it within range we give ourselves a chance to win."
Following a 98-75 victory at Minnesota on Wednesday, the Mavs have failed to reach 100 points in back-to-back games for the just the second time this season. They rank near the top of the NBA in points per game (107.9) and field goal percentage (47.1), but they have seen a slight dip with an average of 100.8 points over the last eight games.
Rajon Rondo’s poor production in recent contests may be partly to blame. After averaging 8.1 assists and 5.8 rebounds through his first 13 games with Dallas, Rondo has managed just 2.7 assists and 2.0 rebounds in his last three.
Carlisle, whose next victory will be the 600th of his career, opted to sit Rondo in favor of Devin Harris for the final 5:12 of Friday’s loss.
"If he brings it up, he does," Rondo said. "But it’s not something that I’ll go to his office and make a big deal about."
A win for Carlisle on Sunday would put him alongside San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers and Minnesota’s Flip Saunders as the only active coaches to reach the 600-win milestone.
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans (22-21) could present a formidable barrier to that accomplishment considering their defense. New Orleans has held opponents below 100 points in 11 of its last 12 contests with a plus-6.2 rebounding margin in that span.
Davis had 21 points and 12 rebounds to help the Pelicans continue that trend and win for the sixth time in those 12 games, 92-84 over the Timberwolves on Friday.
"We’re not trying to string up two (wins)," coach Monty Williams said after his team won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December. "We’d like to get on a real streak. We’ve been able to do that in the past, try to get three, four wins in a row."
The Pelicans could begin to emerge from that mediocrity with a season-best third consecutive win.
Eric Gordon seems to have finally broken out offensively after a dreadful start to the season. He scored 20 points Friday to follow a 17-point, 10-assist effort Wednesday in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
He did not play in the previous matchup against Dallas – a 112-107 loss Dec. 10. Davis scored 31 points in that one, but he was topped by four 20-point scorers for the Mavericks led by Monta Ellis’ 26.
The Pelicans, who also lost the first meeting Nov. 1, haven’t beaten their Southwest Division rivals since Jan. 5, 2013.