Friday, Oct. 25 (7 p.m., ESPN)
Why it’s on the list
Judging by comments from Pelicans fans, New Orleans’ home opener vs. a Southwest Division rival should feel something like a local holiday in South Louisiana. It will be the first time No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson and a slew of teammates play an official game in the Smoothie King Center.
“Not just because it’s Zion debut,” pointed out Twitter user @yankeesman77, “but I’m positive the crowd is gonna show love to all the new Pelicans the best and most authentic way they know how the moment they step onto the court and remember that feeling for a long time to come.” Meanwhile, @AdamMcCreary noted he picked the “home opener by a mile” in its 58-42 percent win in the semifinal round of fan voting. “Up-and-coming vs. up-and-coming. Both hoping to slide into final Western playoff spots. Both debuting significantly made-over rosters.” Added @Jwurkz, “The fast pace and the excitement in Smoothie King Center is going to be next level.”
Where it falls on the New Orleans schedule
The Pelicans’ first home game of ’19-20 is sandwiched between two difficult road tests, including an Oct. 22 game at Toronto for the Raptors’ NBA ring ceremony, as well as an Oct. 26 back-to-back at Houston’s Toyota Center. That’s followed by home games against Golden State and Denver. The Mavericks are the only opponent that did not make the ’19 playoffs among NOLA’s first eight matchups.
What’s new in Dallas
Kristaps Porzingis was added to the Mavericks’ roster last season via trade with New York, but he never played in a game, continuing his recovery from an ACL injury. It will be fascinating to see what the combination of Porzingis and ’18-19 Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic are capable of as a duo in Big D, a location very familiar with having a European star. In addition to Porzingis launching his Dallas tenure, the Mavericks added guards Delon Wright and Seth Curry in the offseason, both of whom should fill key roles.
Matchups to watch
They won’t be matched up against each other, but many eyes will be on ROY winner Doncic and Williamson, who was the unquestioned No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, no matter which team ended up winning the lottery. Pelicans center Derrick Favors and New Orleans’ frontcourt will have their hands full trying to slow down Porzingis all over the floor.
Mavericks history in this countdown
Despite being a division rival, this is Dallas’ first appearance on Pelicans.com’s countdown in six years and only the second overall. With two of the league’s rising stars now in the fold, the Mavs probably would’ve made the cut this time even if they weren’t the guest for NOLA’s highly-anticipated home opener.
Other 2019-20 games between these teams
Tuesday, Dec. 3, Dallas at New Orleans (TNT)
Saturday, Dec. 7, New Orleans at Dallas
Wednesday, March 4, New Orleans at Dallas