Rockets vs. Mavericks: Preview, keys to victory, matchups to watch for

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets Robert Covington (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Players that need to step up for the Houston Rockets

Robert Covington: Covington was Houston’s big mid-season addition and exemplified the Rockets’ bold new strategy of completely dismissing the traditional center role. Look for Dallas to attack Covington early to see what he has to offer on the defensive end. If Covington can hold his own against the Mavericks’ frontcourt and continue to help stretch the floor, he’ll end up being the unsung hero of the game; statistics be damned.

Russell Westbrook: The Rockets have moved heaven and Earth not only to get Russell Westbrook but to get the best out of him, and it’s make-or-break time. How Westbrook plays will be crucial in dictating the pace of play and personnel choices of the Mavericks. If he’s able to blow past Dallas’s guards and attack the rim effectively, it will force the Mavericks to play a traditional center that the Rockets can hopefully run off of the court.

The Bench: The Mavericks’ two young European superstars get most of the attention, but they have sneakily had one of the best bench groups all season. Not only does this unit play effectively, possessing the 5th best net rating at +2.4, but they also play often, having played the ninth-most minutes.

The Rockets bench, while effective with the sixth-best net rating of +1.6, has played the league’s fewest minutes. No player averaged more than 30 minutes per game for the Rockets during their three scrimmages, and it isn’t a certainty that the Rockets’ starters can handle a full load of minutes. The bench needs to step up and hold their own if the Rockets are going to have a chance.

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