Rockets 105, Mavericks 82 - Clinched

By Forrest Walker on March 11, 2018

The Dallas Mavericks are a bad team, and tanking to boot. The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, are an elite team, despite injuries. On a night without MVP candidate James Harden, among other injuries, the Rockets held court in Dallas and began a new winning streak immediately after their narrow loss in Toronto. Despite some trouble in the first half, this game was put away by the middle of the third quarter, and have clinched a playoff spot.

The Rockets opened up the game with a hot shooting streak, but quickly surrendered a double digit lead when the offense cratered. While streaky three point shooting was part of the issue, the reality is that on a night without James Harden, the offense is going to struggle when Chris Paul sits. Paul made up for his poor play the other day with a fantastic line: 24 points, 50% shooting and 12 assists. The only higher score in the game was Eric Gordon, who erupted for 26 points on 9-16 line, including 6-11 from three point range. The Mavs allowed open threes all night long, and they were only able to hang as long as the Rockets were unusually cold, or the offense stagnated.

Eric Gordon is a fantastic scorer, but he's shown time and time again he can't run the offense. To a certain degree, Joe Johnson and Gerald Green are there to take advantage of those situations, creating for themselves and shooting when the game bogs down. They had 12 and 13 points, respectively, and Johnson in particular earned his keep with 5-9 shooting. The Mavericks aren't close to a real test of the Rockets, but those players showed why they have value.

Beyond that, there was little of note for Houston. Ryan Anderson was still out, Nene sat tonight, and Brandan Wright remained sidelined. When the bench was emptied out for garbage time, the Rockets were so short-handed that Trevor Ariza remained in. He played the longest minutes of the game for Houston at a mere 34 minutes, which is a good omen for a team preparing to host the San Antonio Spurs tomorrow.

The Rockets are extremely good. To lose a game against a massively inferior opponent would have been an embarrassment, even with their injuries. Tonight, everything went according to plan, and the Rockets held steady. Now that a playoff berth is secured, all that's left is to secure home court throughout the playoffs and use the next few weeks to prepare for round one.

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