New Orleans Hornets vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview and Pick – Point Spread

New Orleans Hornets (10-12 SU, 9-13 ATS) vs. Dallas Mavericks (17-7 SU, 13-11 ATS), 8:30 p.m. EST, Monday, December 14, 2009, American Airlines Center, Dallas, Tex. TV: NBA TV
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Hornets +8/Mavericks -8
Over/Under: 195.5

Many people thought before the season that the New Orleans Hornets could win the Southwest Division title this year. Right now, it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. Instead, the Hornets are in fourth place in the division with a below .500 record, while the Dallas Mavericks are the ones in first place.

The Hornets started the season slow. After head coach Byron Scott was fired early in the season, Chris Paul went down with an injury and the Hornets lost seven of their first 10 games. With Paul out for eight games, the Hornets went 4-4 over that span. As soon as Paul returned to action on December 4, the Hornets won three games in a row before finally losing one to the Knicks in their last game on Friday. The three wins weren’t impressive – two of them were over the Timberwolves and the other was over the Kings, one was by two points, and one win was by just one point – but at least they picked up a few wins. Since Paul has returned, he is averaging 14.7 points, 13.5 assists, five rebounds and three steals per game. He also has a 3.6 assists-to-turnovers ratio in those four games and is shooting 92 percent from the free throw line. Having Paul back is obviously a huge boost for the Hornets as they try to get back into the playoff race in the Western Conference.

Paul is now averaging 21.2 points and 10.4 assists per game for the season, but other Hornets players besides him need to step up for the Hornets to win some games. David West’s numbers have went south this season with just 15.9 points and seven rebound per game. Both of those numbers are his lowest averages since his second year in the NBA (2004-05). West has been averaging over 20 points and eight rebounds per game the last two seasons. His field goal percentage (45.8) is also the lowest it has been since his second year in the league. Peja Stojakovic’s numbers have also taken a nose-dive this season. He is averaging 12.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, his lowest averages since his second year in the NBA (1999-2000). He is attempting only 10.6 shots per game, also the lowest since his second year in the league. And he’s only getting to the free throw line 1.3 times per game, the lowest of his career. If the Hornets have any chance of rebounding this season and making a run, West and Stojakovic have to really step up and give Paul some help.

Even Emeka Okafor, who is playing fairly well, has the lowest averages of his career this season. Okafor, who was traded to the Hornets in the offseason from the Bobcats for Tyson Chandler, is averaging 11 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, which both serve as the lowest numbers of his career. Like Stojakovic, he is shooting less field goal and free throw attempts than he ever has in his career.

Unlike the Hornets, it’s mostly good news for the Mavericks, who stand at 17-7 after a three-game winning streak and are currently 3.5 games up on the Spurs and Rockets for first place in the division. In their last three games, the Mavericks have defeated the Suns, Heat and Bobcats, two of which came by just one point. In a 98-97 win over the Bobcats on Saturday, Dirk Nowitzki hit a 10-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left in overtime to win the game.

Nowitzki is having an NBA-caliber season with 27.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. His points-per-game average is the highest of his career this season. Jason Kidd is still doing his thing with 8.3 points, 9.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line. His numbers aren’t as good as they were a few years ago, but the Mavs are plenty happy with Kidd dishing out nine assists per game. Jason Terry has been a big help in the scoring column with 17.3 points per game and Shawn Marion is adding 12 points per game.

The Hornets are 0-4 ATS in their last four games and three of their last four games have gone under. The Mavs are 1-4 ATS in their last five games.

Ryno’s Pick: It’s always fun to see Paul and Nowitzki, two of the best players in the NBA, battle it out for 48 minutes. For Paul, it’s about dishing out assists, getting his teammates involved, and scoring when he needs to. For Nowitzki, it’s about scoring as much as possible. Paul is having a solid season, but Nowitzki is having an excellent season, as is his team. The Hornets did win three of their last four games, but they were against the T-Wolves and Kings, two of the worst teams in the league. The Mavs have proved to be a much better team this season than the Hornets, and that will continue in Dallas on Monday night. Take the Mavericks at -8 to cover the spread.