Offensively, these are two of the most efficient teams in the NBA -- No. 2 seed New Orleans ranks fifth and No. 7 seed Dallas ranks seventh. Neither team runs that often, with both in the bottom 10 in offensive pace. Both teams take care of the basketball; both are in the top five in the league in fewest turnovers per game.
Both teams shoot 46 percent from the field, but New Orleans ranks third in the league in 3-point field goal percentage -- mostly due to Peja Stojakovic -- while Dallas is 20th.
Defensively, Dallas is fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense; New Orleans ranks 15th. Both rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency.
Jason Kidd gets more comfortable running the Dallas offense with every game, and he will try to get Dirk Nowitzki going early. Look for the Mavericks to run more to get some easy baskets for Josh Howard and Jason Terry. They want to establish dominance early and send the message that the playoffs are a different world than the regular season.
The Hornets have little depth on the front line, so look for Dallas to attack the basket in the half court and not settle for jump shots. Howard and Terry will look to drive, and Dirk will post and look to get into the lane.
While the Mavericks may come in with a clear, modified game plan -- with specific objectives based on matchups and personnel -- Hornets coach Byron Scott may elect to simply let the Hornets play the way they play, and make adjustments from there. That's the easiest way for an inexperienced playoff team to perform, but not necessarily the best way to win a series.
The Mavericks know all about the pressure of being the higher seed playing at home, and they are more than happy to let the Hornets have that experience this time around.
Kidd: He weathered the criticism and steered his team into the playoffs, averaging 9 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in April as the Mavericks played their way in. He hit 5-for-8 from 3 Wednesday night and has quietly shot 46 percent from the 3-point line since he came to Dallas. But his job is to get the other guys going, and he can still bring a triple-double in any game of the series. He was brought here for the playoffs, and now they are here.
Paul: Arguably the NBA's MVP, he torched the Mavericks in their first two games this season -- scoring 33 and 22 -- then lit Jason Kidd up for 31 in Kidd's first game as a Maverick. The Hornets won both games in which Paul scored over 30, but he prefers to pass up shots to get his teammates involved. He will push on the break, dribble-penetrate and kick, or settle in the half court to distribute the ball to everyone. He changes speeds better than any point guard in the league and runs the pick-and-roll with Chandler as well as any tandem in the NBA. He can go on scoring binges off the dribble if his team needs him to, and rest assured he won't sit on the bench for 16 minutes as he did against Dallas on Wednesday night in the regular-season finale.
Terry: Terry has been outstanding in their four meetings, averaging 22 points on 57 percent shooting, including 50 percent from 3. He had 25 points as a starter in the Mavericks' Dec. 14 win and finished the season Wednesday night against New Orleans with 30 off the bench on 12-for-19 shooting (including 3-for-6 from 3). He has been on fire in the past five games of the season -- scoring 22, 21,10, 25 and 30 -- on a blistering 41-for-77 shooting (53 percent). He's the hottest offensive player on the Mavericks going into the playoffs.
Peterson: He has played a limited role against the Mavericks, averaging only 5.5 points and shooting 36 percent in four games. Scored only two points in 13 minutes in the Hornets' Feb. 20 win, but he has shot 50 percent from 3 in the month of April, which he may need to do to stay on the floor.
Howard: Athletic slasher has averaged only 15.3 points and shot 32 percent from the field in four games against the Hornets, and he shot only 31 percent down the stretch in April. He is at his best in transition, hitting jumpers and finishing at the rim. When things get crowded in the half court and West or Stojakovic get a hand in Howard's face, his baskets don't come as easy. The Mavericks will run some sets to try to get him going.
Stojakovic: The fourth-best 3-point percentage shooter in the NBA (made 231 3s this season, second-highest in the league). However, he has made only 5 of his past 24. He will spot up or come off screens to get them, and at 6-foot-10, will also look to post up smaller defenders. Has hit 10-of-17 3-pointers and averaged 16.8 points versus Dallas this season, and averaged 20 in the Hornets' two wins. He tried to do more in the midrange game Wednesday night -- taking only two 3s -- but look for him to go back outside and provide that perimeter shooting threat.
Nowitzki: Has averaged only 17 points on 37 percent shooting against the Hornets, including a mere 7 points on 2-for-8 shooting in a game the Mavericks won in December. Came back with 31 points on Feb. 20, but got no help in Dallas' loss in New Orleans. The Hornets really have no answer for Nowitzki -- they have just been fortunate that he has missed shots. They will guard him with West, Stojakovic and even Chandler, but they can only contest as best they can and hope he misses. Nowitzki should be able to dominate this matchup -- he just hasn't.
West: This All-Star has been a workhorse for the Hornets, logging the most minutes on the team. He will post, jump shoot, drive and do all his damage in the midrange and around the basket. In four games against Dallas this season, he has averaged only 15.5 points on 38 percent shooting, as the Mavericks have rotated defenders to give him different looks. He had games of 11 and 7 points in December, but had his best game against Dallas on Wednesday night (26 points) and has averaged 25 points while shooting 55 percent in his past five games. He is the Hornets' best shot-blocker.
Dampier: An old-fashioned 5 who does it with strength and power, he hasn't been much of a factor offensively in four games against New Orleans, or against anyone the Mavericks play -- although he did have 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the Mavericks' Feb. 20 loss. He sets a mean screen, then rolls inside, or just powers his way on the block for a jump hook or a short turnaround jump shot. His impact has been more on the defensive end, as he blocked 3 shots in the Mavs' win in December.
Chandler: Maybe the leading beneficiary of Chris Paul's ascension to stardom, Chandler will get dunks and easy baskets courtesy of Paul's creativity. He will set the high pick at the top of the floor and then dive to the basket looking for the high lob or the quick pass for the dunk; this was the No. 1 dunking combination in the NBA this season. Has averaged 12.4 points and shot 76 percent in his past five games, but was only 3-for-5 with six points in Wednesday's loss to Dallas. Uses his quickness to average four-plus offensive rebounds per game.
Got back on the court Wednesday after missing nine games with a groin injury. When healthy, he can score in bunches off the bench (18 points in 24 minutes in the Dec. 1 loss, and 16 points in 28 minutes two weeks later in a Mavericks win). He is always in attack mode. His health will determine his effectiveness in this series.
Strong, athletic forward has played steady minutes off the bench all season. Bass adds rebounding and toughness; in April, he has averaged 9.6 points on 57 percent shooting.
Veteran with playoff experience has played 20 minutes per game in April (scoring 4.5 points and shooting 36 percent).
Another playoff-savvy veteran who brings scoring and 3-point shooting, averaging 5.6 points in 18 minutes in April.
Solid backup to Kidd. Can push the pace and run the team; shoots 45 percent from 3.
He provides points off the bench and has become the Hornets' fifth-leading scorer. Scored 16 points versus Dallas on Wednesday night, and has plenty of experience against the Mavs. Could play a significant role in this series.
Backs up Paul at the point, but also plays with him to give them super quickness in the backcourt. Had 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the December win but hasn't played a large role against the Mavs since.
Hasn't played much against Dallas, but may be needed because the Hornets are thin up front.
Forward has seen his playing time increase, averaging 16 minutes per game in March and April, and scoring in double figures six times. Was one of the NBA's top rookies post-All-Star break.
David Thorpe: I love everything about how the Hornets play, and I'm not convinced the Mavericks are a better team post-trade. Still, teams that have suffered real heartache in the postseason either fold or strengthen. Dallas responded to its Finals loss with a 67-win season, then died in Oakland. Now the Mavs are back, and I sense that they are stronger.
Prediction: Dallas 4, New Orleans 2
Mike Moreau: Chris Paul has played at a high level more consistently than any player in the NBA this season. No one means more to his team, but he will have to raise that level even higher. The Mavericks have more veterans, more experience, more weapons and have endured more pain.
Prediction: Dallas 4, New Orleans 2
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for ESPN.com and the executive director of the Pro Training Center at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for NBA and college players. To e-mail him, click here.
Mike Moreau is the Director of Basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, FL. He also serves an NBA Analyst for Hoopsworld.
Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.