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Game Day Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks

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The Houston Rockets face their toughest test of the remaining schedule in a must win game versus the Dallas Mavericks

Whether you’re reading this in the confines of your cubicle at the office while your boss is on lunch break or in the middle of your daily 2 hour restroom escape from work, one thing’s for certain. Well, actually two.

  1. You hate your job.
  2. You haven’t given up on Houston’s Sometimes Professional Most of the Time We Don’t Care NBA team.

Sitting a game back with half a stubbed toe in the door of the Western Conference Playoffs are the Houston Rockets. Sitting a game in front of the Rockets on a chair half broken are the Dallas Mavericks.

Both ball clubs with the addition of the Jazz are in a three way King of the Ring wrestling match for the final two playoff spots (sad isn’t it). The implications for tonight’s match up against the in state rivals could very well make tonight Houston’s biggest game of the season.

Not only does this game effect the playoff race in a huge way but it’s also against Dallas. Not the Mavericks, but Dallas. No matter the sport, every Houston native has been through the agony of hearing a friend or co-worker from Dallas, boast about how the Cowboys are God’s gift to football or how the Maverick’s 2011 NBA Title team was one of the greatest teams ever assembled. We get it, you guys like living in the past and the feeling of nostalgia is vital to your well being. I too wish that I was still in elementary school where lunch was 40 cents and an hour of the day was set out for recess and naps (which was mega dope).

But, the past is the past and the present is the present. And I could not be more excited nor think of a better way to potentially steer a team’s season voyage into a complete shipwreck than to match them up against their in state rival.

The Details

Venue: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

Game Time: 9:30 PM ET – 8:30 PM CT

TV: ESPN

Radio: 790 AM, ESPN 103.3 AM, Sirius:207(Internet H:886/A:890)

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Recent History

Houston has had the edge in the last three match ups winning 2 our of the 3.

  • 11/14/2015: Dallas 110 – 98 Houston
  • 12/04/2015: Houston 100 – 96 Dallas
  • 1/24/2016: Houston 115 – 104 Dallas

Walking Wounded

Dallas

Houston

Projected Starters

Dallas: J.J Barea, Wesley Matthews, Justin Anderson, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia

Houston: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas, Dwight Howard

Scouting Report

J.J Barea – Barea is the tiny muscular guy at your local rec center who goes 100 percent in every game doing unnecessary things in a pick up game like wear a mouth piece, dive for every loose ball and pick a man up full court. The dude you call a try hard but really you’re just calling him a try hard because you’re salty that his team has kicked your team off like 5 times in one night and he’s doing things you don’t expect a guy at his height to do. Yeah that’s Barea in a nutshell.

Barea is an absolute gamer and a coach’s dream. He has every offensive tool in his arsenal a guy his size needs to excel in the NBA. The floater, jumper, runner, sweet touch off the glass and to top it off, has an overall Assist to Turnover Ratio of 2.7 (14th overall). The Mavericks are currently on a four game winning streak and a huge part of this has been Barea’s stellar performance in which he was rewarded Western Conference Player of the Week averaging 23.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.8 assist while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 48 percent from deep.

Because of Barea’s size, he can at times be a liability on defense against opposing guards. In the past, Houston has taken advantage of this by running a high ball screen up top involving Beverley and Harden which then forces Barea to switch onto Harden. And from there you can probably guess what happens next.

Wesley Matthews – Matthews is one of those players you watch that will have you believing maybe playing in the NBA isn’t so hard after all. Wes won’t jump out the gym, he doesn’t blind you with his speed nor is he one of the bigger guys on the court but all of these incapabilities is what makes him one of the more sneakier players in the league.

Wes’s game is purely rhythm. You’ll never see Matthews force the issue which is what I love most about him. His stroke from deep is one that every Rockets fan has fallen victim to dating back to his days in Portland. He has the ability to post up smaller defenders and shoot the turnaround at an efficient rate. Most importantly, he’s also a scrappy player. Wes isn’t afraid to go chest to chest with the opposing team’s best scorer nor will you ever see him take a play off.

Justin Anderson – Think K.J McDaniels without the cornrows. Both freak of nature athletes with high wire energy. Although Anderson isn’t quite the defender McDaniels is at the moment, his activity level on both ends makes up for it. Since Anderson has slid into the starting role, the Mavericks have held four straight opponents to less than 90 points.

Anderson’s jumper hasn’t quite translated over to the pros as many scouts thought it would’ve. Most of Justin’s offensive production will be around the rim off second chance opportunities or cuts off the ball. He has the ability to knock down the three ball occasionally, but it isn’t a weapon that Rockets head coach J.B Bickerstaff will dictate an entire defensive game plan over.

Dirk Nowitzki – What more is there to say about Dirk that you already don’t know? The greatest German to ever touch a basketball and probably the guy I’m naming my second born child after.

ZaZa Pachulia – The month of March has been a disappointing one for the man with the coolest name in the association. Head coach Rick Carlisle has opted to dig deeper into his front court rotation by giving Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri some burn. Zaza isn’t quite necessarily a force down low snagging rebounds nor the big scary freak throwing everyone’s shot into the stands at the rim, but he’ll still some how end up with a near double double every game.

Pachulia has a nose for the ball and is one of the most intelligent centers in the game. He’s 6’11 and doesn’t swat at every ball but instead is well familiar with the defensive rotations of this Dallas ball club and does a swell job of staying vertical. Offensively, Zaza doesn’t have a jumper that poses as a huge threat nor any post moves that’ll force double teams.

Mavericks Bench – The Mavs are 11th overall in Bench Points per game (per hoopsstats.com) with an average of 36.1. Highlighted by a solid mixture of veterans and young players, Dallas’s bench production has for the most part been a big part of why they’re even in the playoff race.

Dwight Powell is a player that will most likely do the most damage off the bench. Powell is a do it all 6’10 center/power forward who has the the range to knock it down from 15-18 ft and the springs to finish at the rim. The second year player out of Stanford has shown in his time of opportunity the versatility of his overall game and that he has what it takes to be a solid big man in this league going forward.

For what ever reason, Raymond Felton enjoys more than anything playing against the Houston Rockets. It seems as though the rim becomes that much bigger for Felton as he’s averaging 16 points per game on 52 percent shooting against Houston.

Houston’s Approach

Schematically, Dallas just doesn’t match up well with Houston. Defensively there are too many glaring holes that Houston has taken advantage of in the past. Nowitzki isn’t the defender he once was and with the recent play of Michael Beasley, the Rockets should be looking to attack that match-up all night long. Forcing Barea to switch onto Harden or Ariza through screen action has worked in the past.

The Mavericks won’t make a living on second chance opportunities as their bigs are primarily stretch fours and fives who don’t hang around the rim. With that being said, the Mav’s front court players also have a tendency to ball watch while the shot is on it’s way up meaning that leak out opportunities for Houston’s wings will be present.

Getting out in transition and attacking the basket where Dallas’s interior defense is at it’s weakest should should be of priority.

Prediction

The odds makers have set the Rockets as 2 point road favorites with a total over/under of 207.5

Houston has had a reputation this season of coming out flat after huge wins. The fact that Houston looked so impressive in the second half of last game’s victory over the Thunder worries me. The Mavericks are a veteran filled team, coached by arguably one of the game’s top coaches and are fighting for their playoff lives. Yet still stand as 2 point under dogs at home? Something doesn’t seem right.

The Rockets in each of their last three wins have had to fight back from a double digit lead coming out of the second half. Against a familiar foe and for a team who averages just 12.7 turnovers per game (per teamrankings.com) with the stakes this high, I doubt the same can happen again.

Mavericks – 103
Rockets – 97

Next: Harden Vows to Shave Beard if Rockets Miss Playoffs?

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