The Dallas Mavericks (26-20) host state rival Houston Rockets (30-17) in the fourth and final regular season matchup. A Mavericks win will put them 2.5 games behind the Rockets in the standings. A win also clinches a season series edge for the Mavericks, who currently lead 2-1.
The Rockets come in taking down the short-handed San Antonio Spurs without shooting guard James Harden behind 23 points and 16 rebounds from Dwight Howard.
No Lead Is Safe: The Mavericks are notorious for blowing big leads. Blowing leads to the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors, and more. In the second game of the season series the Rockets blew a 20 point lead to the Mavericks with Shawn Marion hitting the go ahead 3 and getting the final stop on James Harden.
One-Two Punch: The Rockets feature most likely All-Stars Harden and Dwight Howard. The both combine to score just over 41 points a game. The two will and have given the Mavs plenty to handle. Howard has averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds in the three games. Harden has put up 28.5 points in two games against the Mavs (missed third game with a sprained left ankle). The Mavs must be able to not just slow these guys from the floor but to keep them off the free-throw line. In 3 games of Howard and 2 games of Harden, they have combined for 58 free throw attempts.
The Mavs One-Two: As the Mavs will have their hands full with the Harden and Howard, the Rockets must find answers for Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. The two are averaging 40.9 points together on the season. In the two Mavs’ wins the Rockets have had no answer for Nowitzki. He’s put up 33 points on 63.2% and 6.5 rebounds. Ellis has struggled to shoot against the Rockets shooting 45.2%, which was drastically boosted thanks to his 13-18 shooting performance for 37 points in the game 2 win.
SF Battle: Chandler Parson vs Shawn Marion. These two are the glue to each team. Marion is the best defender on the team, leads the team in rebounds, and has scored in a various of ways. Parsons compliments Howard and Harden with his ability to shoot the 3-ball, get to the basket, rebound, and also defend. It won’t come to a surprise that the small forward with the bigger game is on the winning team.
Terrence Jones: Came off the bench in the Rockets win, started and had 18 points in the Rockets late game collapse, and just 10 points in the third game (Rockets loss). He’s shown the ability to go off for big games and as the season has progressed he’s continued to improve. He’s averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds in the month of January. The Mavs can’t afford to sleep on him as they did in his 18 point outburst.
Bench Support: The Mavs’ bench have come on strong in the last two games, putting up 46 points in each. The Rockets’ bench averages over 26 points a game. The Rockets bench isn’t counted on to do as much as the Mavs’. If the Mavs’ bench can give them a Mavs a huge boost, it will be a huge advantage. Devin Harris has put up 14 points in the last two games for the Mavs. Harris’s defense will be huge for the Mavericks. He will see time on the Rockets’ point guards and maybe even Harden.
High Scoring: Both teams average over 103 points a game and not a single of the season series game featured a team scoring under 104. Expect another high scoring shootout.
Ball Security: The Mavs lead the lead in steals with 9.15 a game and the Rockets are the third worst turnover team with 16.1 per game. The Rockets may be in line for a big turnover night. Though the Mavs average 13.9 turnovers a game, they are vulnerable for big turnover nights. Ellis committed 8 of the Mavs’ 17 turnovers in the win over the Detroit Pistons.
Which Big? The Mavericks have Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright, and DeJuan Blair rotating at center. The hope is that Dalembert will get the majority of the minutes. He’s the only one of the three who has the length, size, and strength to consistently contest Howard. He hasn’t fared well though (look above). It may come down to Wright and Blair to save the Mavs inside. Both flawed, Wright with his slender frame and Blair with his short stature. The Mavs will be ecstatic if all three can have a positive impact, but in reality the hope is one will be a plus.
Both teams are stacked with great talent. Jose Calderon, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverly, and so on have not been mentioned, but are all capable of having a huge impact. Both teams have stars, depth, and flaws.
The team that can play to their strength and expose the opposition’s weakness will get the win.
A Mavs win will go a long way. Wins over plus-500 teams have been rare lately.
To the final showdown between these two for the regular season should be a good one.
Oh, Don’t forget, No Lead is Safe.
HOU: Harden (Thumb-GTD), Omar Asik (Knee-Out), Ronnie Brewer (Calf-GTD), Greg Smith (Knee-GTD)