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  • Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez is the front-runner for the NBA’s most-improved player of the year award according to Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. Vasquez’s numbers back up that assessment. He’s averaging nearly double his previous career averages, scoring 13.8 points, dishing out 9.4 assists and grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game. His 21 double-doubles are tops in the league among guards. “He’s one of those guys probably his whole career that people have written off enough times where now you’re saying to yourself, ‘Don’t ever bet against this guy,’ ” Carlisle said. “That’s kind of where I’m at with him. I really have a lot of respect for what he has done, particularly this year.”
  • New Orleans has improved on nearly every key statistic in the games it has played in 2013 as compared the ones played in 2012. The Hornets have five more wins thanks to scoring on average 5.4 points more per game, making 2.7 percent more shots and giving up fewer second-chance points per game.
  • Expected Hornets starters: (F) Al-Farouq Aminu; (F) Ryan Anderson; (C) Robin Lopez; (G) Eric Gordon; (G) Vasquez
  • Dallas center Brandan Wright has seen his rebounds increase in each of the past five games. Carlisle hasn’t completely analyzed where the difference is with the fourth-year pro but he’s happy with it. “He has been active and aggressive,” Carlisle said. “That’s what we need from him.” Wright is averaging 3.4 rebounds per game in 15.4 minutes per game this season.
  • The Mavs will go with the current form of the starting lineup for the ninth time this season, tying a season high for versions of a starting lineup. Carlisle was surprised by the stat, but says the lineup has been better defensively. He said one of the benefits is that it helps bring better players off the bench to set up the game.
  • Expected Mavericks starters: (F)Shawn Marion; (F) Dirk Nowitzki; (C) Bernard James; (G) O.J. Mayo; (G) Darren Collison

-Bradley Handwerger

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