Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Mavericks (1-0) come into Houston to face the Houston Rockets (1-0) in a game that has plenty of expectations and excitement. Well Maverick owner Mark Cuban decided to add more to this anticipated game. As everyone knows prized free agent center Dwight Howard decided to sign with the division rival Rockets over other teams which included the Mavericks, Cuban expressed his opinion of Howard’s decision by saying,
"“Obviously, he made a mistake in judgment. Do I blame him? No, that’s what young kids do. They make mistakes in judgment.”"
When the Mavericks struck out on Howard they turned their attention to Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, and Sam Dalembert. After game one the Mavericks are happy with their investments as Ellis contributed 32 points and 8 assists, Calderon had a game high 11 assists, and Dalembert added a team high 9 rebounds.
Houston will give the Mavericks a much different and tougher challenge than the Atlanta Hawks. Houston will be able to clog the paint with Howard and Omar Asik, so it will be interesting to see if Ellis will be able to attack the basket as he did last game. The Rockets have plenty of shooters to surround around Howard and All-Star shooting guard James Harden, so it will be able important for the Mavericks to guard Chandler Parsons, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, and Patrick Beverley behind the 3pt line. Dallas gave up plenty of open looks to Atlanta, so it’s expected Rick Carlisle has addressed that issue with the team, as Houston’s offense is structured to create open looks for its perimeter players.
Other focal points for the Mavericks will be to rebound and not turn the ball over (2o turnovers vs Hawks). Howard and Asik combined for 40 rebounds(11 offensive) against the Charlotte Bobcats. The rebounding burden will fall on Dalembert and DeJuan Blair, but the Mavericks must rebound as a whole to keep it close.
Expect Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki to be involved in the pick-n-pop more this game than last. Either Asik or Howard must guard Nowitzki, so expect it to be an emphasis to pull them out of the paint to allow Ellis to attack the basket. Nowitzki scored 24 points Wednesday with plenty of his open looks being credited to Ellis’s penetration.
There’s many possible players to consider. The Mavericks will obviously need Ellis to score/create, Dalembert to rebound and defend, but this game will fall on Nowitzki’s shoulders. Nowitzki will need to grab more than the 4 rebounds he had last game. He must also be able to defend and contest the perimeter when Houston decides to go small. It may be obvious, but Nowitzki must be able to stretch the defense. If Nowitzki is hitting it will force Houston to leave the paint, which will create opportunities for others.
This is a great early season test for the Mavericks as the Rockets are viewed as a Western Conference contender. This is also a front end of a back to back for the Mavericks, as they go back home to face the Memphis Grizzlies @ 7:30 CT. State and Division rivals, this game was already hot. We’ll have to wait and see if Cuban’s comments will add fuel to to this matchup.