Game Day Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs Houston Rockets
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston
Game Time: 3:30 PM EST – 2:30 PM CT
TV: ROOT in Houston and FSSW in Dallas
Radio: 790 AM in Houston and 103.3 ESPN in Dallas
The teams have split games winning on each others court this year.
- Dirk Nowitzki – knee, questionable to play
- Zaza Pachulia – right lower leg, questionable to play
- Jeremy Evans – shoulder, game time decision
- Patrick Beverley his twisted ankle has kept him out several games, but he told reporters Saturday he expects to play, so call him probable
- Dwight Howard ankle felt good Friday, but Saturday he wasn’t able to run so is listed as out.
- Donatas Motiejunas – still out with back pain, CBS Sports lists him out until Jan. 30
- Sam Dekker – remains out recovering from back procedure and listed on CBS Sports as out until Mar 1 minimum
- With both Nowitzki and Pachulia listed as questionable it’s hard to guess who Rick Carlisle would replace his frontcourt with.
- There is a chance JaVale McGee could get the start at center or Carlisle could elect to go small given Howard won’t be on the floor for Houston.
- For sake of argument I’m inserting Dwight Powell along with McGee
- The Rockets starters offer an even more perplexing question since Howard won’t play (still out from twisted ankle)
- Beverley is saying he’ll return, but will he start or come off the bench?
- Friday the Rockets used Terry at the point, moved Ariza and Capela up one spot to power forward and center respectively and added Corey Brewer for his length. Yet that line-up may have been more about the length of the Bucks, something the Rockets won’t necessarily face against Dallas especially if both Nowitzki and Pachulia are out.
- Lawson has been playing so well of late there is precedent to start him
- What Bickerstaff elects to do with Josh Smith after he had such a big effect on Friday’s game outcome makes for interesting consideration. I think he’ll continue to come off the bench, but I wonder once Howard returns if we won’t see him playing as a starter.
Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons vs James Harden and Trevor Ariza
Matthews (Achilles) and Parsons (knee) are both returning from major injuries and have just recently begun to showcase production close to what the Mavericks were expecting from them this season. Therefore the timing of Nowitzki and Pachulia being injured is unfortunate. Ideally Dallas need to add a starting center, and if they do the progression of Matthews/Parsons will be a huge factor in the Mavericks chances at being playoff bound. Now that former Mav center Tyson Chandler has posted 27 rebounds could his former team try to make a move to get him back?
Many Rockets fans hate the Mavericks simply because of proximity, but there is something to be said for this squad remaining in the mix of playoff seeds and consistently staying sixth or higher especially after their horrendous emoji summer. It does feel like they’ll need the injury fairy to help them stay healthy or they could slide below that seed.
The obvious team waiting to knock them off and move up is Houston who (dare I say it) actually appear poised to make that move up the ladder. Harden and Ariza carried the team in 2014-15 but have vacillated from great to mediocre to terrible this season. Crazy as it sounds adding a versatile player like Smith may be all the Rockets were lacking. Smith is an excellent passer, can defend, spread the floor and brings copious intangibles not the least of which are positivity to the team’s chemistry.
The true value of Smith won’t be fully recognized until his good friend Howard returns, so the main battle today will come down to the wings and specifically the 4 noted above. Key to stopping Matthews and Parsons will be forcing them off the three point line and making them drive the paint.
Ariza will need to keep Parsons active on the defensive end in order to win the battle of the wings.
Canadian Dwight Powell has been impressive throughout the season and I absolutely love Dallas’ draft pick of Justin Anderson. Barea is a pest and a speedster who provides challenges to defenses to stay in front of him.
For the Rockets will the return of Josh Smith allow Corey Brewer to also return to a similar effectiveness the Rockets experienced last season when the “head band brothers” ruled the hardwood with speed, passing and solid defense.
Keys to Winning:
The 100 point barrier: In games the Mavericks score 100 points they are 19-5 and in games they hold their competition under 100 they are 17-3. Given these stats the Rockets primary goal should be defense leading to less than 100 points and their typical offensive output.
Attack the Paint:The Mavericks don’t score much in the paint to begin with, therefore if Nowitzki and Pachulia don’t play the Rockets need to play the perimeter tough and force the rest of Dallas into the paint where they’ll hold a decided defensive advantage. Offensively even without Howard in the line-up the distinct advantage for Houston is their size and paint scoring ability.
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- Rockets fiasco shows importance of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
Three Ball Anyone? Punctuating the above point Matthews is on fire from the perimeter and is the only player in the past 5 years to score 125 or more three pointers so force Matthews and his teammates into drives which your size can stop.
Play Fundamental Ball: Dallas play like their coach – – intelligent. The Mavericks don’t turn the ball over, don’t foul and do a great job of closing off passing lanes as well as the paint. Given the lack of athletic or young players on the team this truly is the influence of Carlisle on his squad. If the Rockets aren’t careful the Mav’s will make them pay for any mistakes, so the emphasis needs to be on playing fundamentally especially on defense.
Interestingly the only game the odds makers don’t have a line for today is this one. Given the game is in Houston I suspect they’ll lean toward the home team. Most likely the line is off because of all the uncertainties surrounding who’ll suit up.
Remember, this is an early start (2:30 in Houston), so if your Sunday morning/afternoons are busy with church and family set your PVR.
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And check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Dallas Mavericks:
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