Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Dallas Mavericks

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After a game that was too close for comfort in Oklahoma City, the Rockets return home to face the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets are led in both scoring and assists by James Harden (28.2 points and 11.4 assists per game), and in rebounding by Clint Capela, who pulls in 8.3 rebounds a game. The Rockets now rank 4th in offensive rating, 19th (top 20!) in defensive rating, and 7th in net rating.

The Dallas Mavericks are a delightful (for Rocket's fans, at least) tire fire this season. After many expected them to win around 40 games, the Mavericks have stumbled their way to just five wins this season, against 17 losses. The Mavericks are led in scoring by Harrison Barnes, at 20.6 points, in assists by Deron Williams, at 6.5 assists, and in rebounds by Andrew Bogut, at 10.4 rebounds a game. The Mavericks rank 28th in offensive rating, 20th in defensive rating, and 28th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets are likely to continue to start with James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Mavericks have been hit hard by the injury bug early this season, with JJ Barea (calf), Andrew Bogut (knee), Seth Curry (knee) and Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) all likely to miss Saturday's game. The Mavericks will start Deron Williams at point guard, Wesley Matthews at shooting guard, Harrison Barnes at small forward, rookie Dorian Finney-Smith at power forward, and Salah Mejri at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Beard bottled up – After once again struggling to score on Roberson, Harden is about to face another player who has given him fits lately, in Wesley Matthews. Watch to see if Harden is able to play well despite Mathews' great defense.

  • Getting up to speed - After spending most of the season around league average in pace, the Rockets have sped up their play over the last few games, moving from as low as 16th to 9th fastest in the NBA. Watch to see if the Rockets continue to play fast against the Mavericks, who are the second slowest team.

  • Clint back in the doghouse  – After he seemed to have finally gotten the long leash we all wanted for Clint, coach D'Antoni appears not to trust Clint Capela anymore. Capela hasn't been allowed to close the last few games, and hasn't broke 30 minutes played in any of the last six . Watch to see if these changes were match-up based, or if Clint is losing ground with the coach.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets are flying high, after winning their fifth straight and 10 out of the 12 games since Beverley returned from injury. They should be able to take down a sad Mavericks team (who are also on a back-to-back) on their home floor. I predict the Rockets will win, but not in the blowout fashion we would expect, as the Mavericks always find a way to keep it close with the Rockets.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Saturday, December 10th. The game will be televised on ROOT sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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