Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Dallas Mavericks

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Following a win over the lowly Phoenix Suns, the Rockets, now 23-9, head to Dallas to take on the Mavericks for the 4th and final time this year. The Rockets are led in scoring and assists by James Harden, at 27.5 points and 11.9 assists, and in rebounds by Clint Capela, at 8.0 rebounds a game. The Rockets now rank 3rd in offensive rating, 19th in defensive rating, and 5th in net rating.

The Mavericks continue to struggle, still sitting at the bottom of the western conference standings at 9-22, following a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Mavericks are led in scoring by Harrison Barnes, at 20.4 points per game, in assists Deron Williams, at 6.8 assists, and in rebounds by Andrew Bogut, at 10.4 rebounds per game. So far this season, the Suns rank 26th in offensive rating, 22nd in defensive rating, and 27th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

With Clint Capela still sidelined with a fractured fibula, the Rockets starting lineup will continue to be: James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Montrezl Harrell at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

The Mavericks recently had good news (for seemingly the first time this season), when Dirk Nowitzki returned to the lineup, scoring 17 points in a win over the Clippers. The Mavericks still have injuries across their roster, with Andrew Bogut (knee) and JJ Barea (Achilles), likely to miss Tuesday's game, while Dirk is a game time decision, as he may be rested on a back-to-back. The Mavericks are likely to come out with a starting five of Deron Williams at point guard, Wesley Matthews at shooting guard, Harrison Barnes at small forward, Dorian Finney-Smith at power forward, and Dirk Nowitzki at center, with Salah Mejri replacing Dirk, if he is unable to play.

Three Things to Watch

  • Four in a Row? – The Rockets are 3-0 against the Mavericks this season, and although the Mavericks are bad, it is hard to beat any NBA team 3 times in a row. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to withstand any last effort punches the Mavericks may throw to avoid a season sweep.

  • Take care of the ball – One of the thorns in the Rockets' side this season has been turnovers. The Rockets are currently 27th in the NBA at avoiding turnovers, while the Mavericks are 1st in the league at creating them. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to take care of the ball, and not give the Mavericks an easy way into Tuesday's game.

  • Return of Dirk – Assuming Dirk Nowitzki plays, this will be the first time this season the Rockets match up with Dirk. Watch to see if Montrezl Harrell is able to stand his ground against someone who once was one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets should be able to take care of business Tuesday, and complete the season sweep of the struggling Mavericks. I expect them to win, but for the Mavericks to make it tough on them all game long.

Tip-off will be at 7:30 P.M. Central Time in Dallas on Tuesday, December 27th. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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