New Orleans Pelicans +6.0 (-125) @ Dallas Mavericks u211.5 (-105)
In aggregate, our work calls for the the Mavs to just edge by the Pelicans by about a point or so. Each input in our four-factor quantitative handicapping individually anticipates a New Orleans cover, with estimates ranging from a bare Pelicans victory to a Dallas win by about 5.
Last year the Mavericks ranked 6th in the NBA in True Shooting Percentage. Through the first five games of the 2015-16 season though, Dallas is 26th by this measure. Similarly, the Mavs are 22nd in average points scored per game. Stated plainly, Dallas' offense ain't what it used to be.
On the other hand, the young Pelicans have no problems scoring the ball under the instruction of new Head Coach, Alvin Gentry. The uptempo offense that Coach Gentry installed in New Orleans is intended to maximize the utility of star Forward, Anthony Davis.
New Orleans' ability to outrun Dallas is key to the Pelicans staying in this game, in our opinion. New Orleans rank 8th in possessions per game, averaging almost 4 more per contest than Dallas. Further, Per Basketball-Reference.com, the Mavs are the third oldest team in the league, at 30.2 -- more than 3 years older than the average NBA unit. And four of Dallas' starters are over 30. In contrast, at 26.4, New Orleans is about half a year younger than average. As such, the Pelicans should easily outpace the Mavs, resulting in more (easy) transition baskets.
We also like the under tonight, as we are looking for a combined total in the 207 ballpark. Specifically, our three independent totals forecasting measures call for a combined score of 205-209.
In consideration of why the under might collect this afternoon, note that an interesting trend has developed so far this season: two-thirds of NBA teams are more offensively proficient on the road than at home (as indicated by home and away True Shooting Percentages). Dallas is no exception as the Mavs' True Shooting Percentage is 101.2% at American Airlines Center, but declines to 96.0% when traveling.
New Orleans, however, is one of ten NBA teams bucking this trend. The Pelicans clearly do their best work with the ball at their Smoothie King Center, as indicated not only by disparate True Shooting Percentage figures, but also New Orleans' 95 point road game average, versus about 110 per game at home. If this trend holds through tonight, both Dallas and New Orleans will underperform on offense (in absolute terms, that is; New Orleans' relative strengths should still allow the Pelicans to hold within six).
Another of Coach Gentry's focal points for the season is improved play on the defensive end. As of yet, there are few indications that players are buying into this thinking, as New Orleans is dead last in both Opponents Points Per Game and Opponents True Shooting Percentage. However, we are comfortable with the assumption that an older, slower Mavericks team with a natural propensity to coast at home is definitely containable. Take New Orleans and the points and play the under.