Two Things To Watch: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets
By Emmanuel Dixon
The battle of the I-45 renews Saturday, as the Dallas Mavericks travel to Houston for another installment of their in-state rivalry with the new-look Rockets.
Everything is bigger in Texas – especially sports rivalries. The cities of Dallas and Houston, however, take things to a whole new level. The animosity and downright disdain for each other makes every Mavericks-Rockets meeting even more compelling.
The Mavs (0-2) will try to earn their first victory of the season, while Houston (2-0) aims to stay perfect. Tipoff is at 8:00 PM (ET).
Houston has won the last four meetings, thanks to sweeping last year’s season series.
Throw familiarity out the window, however. Both teams have undergone quite a makeover, since they last met. Houston added all-star point guard Chris Paul while Dallas drafted Dennis Smith Jr., the explosive point guard out of NC State.
Regrettably, fans will have to wait a little longer to see the two floor generals face-off. Smith Jr. (Left knee effusion) and Paul (sore left knee) will be sitting out their second consecutive games. Paul is expected to miss up to a month, while Smith Jr. continues to be monitored.
Don’t be deterred, though – there are still some storylines worth watching for. Here are two important ones:
Live By The Three
This matchup is sure to include more three-pointers than you can keep up with. “Bombs away” seems to the the mantra for both clubs thus far.
The Rockets are putting up a league-high 43 three-pointers per game, while the Mavericks come in a close second at 39 attempts per contest. Staggering numbers when you consider the sharpshooting Warriors only average 30 attempts.
In fact, the Mavs (14) and Rockets (13.5) rank second and third respectively in made threes per game. For extra credit, take a wild guess who’s first.
Will the Mavericks continue to rely on the long ball – where they get a league-high 42.2 percent of their offense?
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Nerlens Noel’s Usage
Following Wednesday’s 117-111 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, many MFFL’s were left scratching their heads. Coach Rick Carlisle opted to keep Dwight Powell in during a pivotal stretch in the waning minutes of the game. Some were left confused as to why Nerlens Noel – the team’s best defender – was riding the bench when defensive stops were needed most.
Due to the injury of Smith Jr., Friday was quite a different story. Noel was inserted into the starting lineup – joining J.J. Barea, Wes Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki. Despite a 93-88 loss to Sacramento, Noel showed why he deserves consistent minutes.
The athletic big man is averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, two steals and 2.5 blocks in only 23.4 minutes per game.
Will Noel be given the green light or will he be relegated back to the bench in key moments of the game?
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All things considered, prepare to see another action-packed, emotion-filled thriller between two old foes. As always, Go Mavs!