When: March 14, at 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
TV: FOX Sports Southeast, FOX Sports Southwest-Dallas
Before we get to this, can we just take a second to appreciate what's going on?
The Hornets have won an active league-leading seven straight games, and are sizzling. Since the All-Star break, they've won 10 out of 12, and now find themselves just a game and a half out of third place in the Eastern Conference. There's no doubt the unsung hero has been Kemba Walker, who has averaged 28.6 points, 6.9 assists and five rebounds over the seven game winning streak. In light of March Madness, this certainly isn't the first time we've seen a Walker-led team excel in March. If you recall to his college days at the University of Connecticut, this is Walker's favorite month of the year.
Anyway, contributions have actually come from the entire team on both sides of the ball. The Hornets have scored 108 or more points in all seven wins, while maintaining a scoring margin of over 15 points. It's safe to say the recent home stretch and favorable schedule has been beneficial.
As for this game, it will be the second and final meeting between these two inter-conference teams. The Hornets beat the Mavericks 108-94 back on November fifth in Dallas. Al Jefferson dropped 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Marvin Williams added a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds. On the Mavericks side, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Powell all had 14 points each, and Deron Williams scored 15 and added five assists.
Although the first meeting between these two teams feels like it was ages ago, this one favors the Hornets much like the first one did. In the month of March, the Hornets and the Mavericks could not be more opposite for two teams in the current playoff picture. While the Hornets have won seven straight, the Mavericks have dropped five straight and find themselves hanging on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference by two games. While losing streaks are not uncommon, four of the five losses have come at home for Dallas, which comes at an inopportune time considering the they play six of their next eight games on the road.
It's been a mixed bag of results for the Mavericks, thus far this season. Deron Williams, who was acquired over the summer, has actually performed admirably over the course of the season, but Wesley Matthews, another acquisition, hasn't quite lived up to the large contract he signed over the summer. Granted, it can never be easy to come off a torn Achilles injury, but Rick Carlisle has had to resort to Raymond Felton in many late-game situations more often than desired. Matthews is averaging career-lows in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage this season, and hasn't scored a lower point-per-game total since his rookie campaign.
Rick Carlisle on opting to play Raymond Felton ($3.95 million salary) over Wesley Matthews ($16.4 million... https://t.co/bWuJQPbIrs— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 10, 2016
However, the Mavericks still have a lot going for them if they can get out of their current slump. Dirk Nowitzki appears to have joined Tim Duncan in the ageless era, where increasing age has no effect on production, and the Mavericks' bench is in the league's top 15 in scoring.
Therefore, in order for the Hornets to snag an eighth straight win, the bench unit will be just as important as the defensive effort on Nowitzki and the Mavericks' wing-players such as Chandler Parsons. Also, the recent 3-point defense of the Hornets has been really encouraging, which is important considering the Mavericks love to hoist the deep ball; much like the Hornets' previous opponent in the Houston Rockets.