Four-Pointer: Previewing the Houston Rockets

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas and Houston square off tonight in Houston, as the Mavs try to break a two-game losing streak.

What have the Mavs done lately?

The Dallas Mavericks suddenly are slumping.  Foolish people like me underestimated the Toronto Raptors(sorry Toronto fans, or "sorey, Toron'o fans"), who handled the Mavs in OT before shocking the Thunder Sunday in OKC.  After that grueling affair, Dallas was practically roadkill for the red-hot Suns, who just hit another three as I typed that sentence.

Unfortunately, those were, on paper, the more winnable-looking games for Dallas as they close out 2013.  Now Dallas faces the Texas Twosome of Rox and Spurs, before going on the road in Chicago and in Minnesota.

Is there any good news here?

There is some good news here.  Apparently, The Bearded One is out tonight.  Houston is 4-1 this season without James Harden, but his absence is unquestionably a good thing for a Dallas team that struggles most especially against attacking guards.  Francisco Garcia started in place of Harden against Detroit in the Rockets' last game, alongside Patrick Beverly, who broke a bone in his right hand and will be out 4-6 weeks.  Houston will have some reinforcements, however, as reports are that Jeremy Lin(who has missed the last four with back problems) is playing tonight.

What stat might decide the game?

Rebounding.  Houston is the NBA's second best rebounding team, by percentage of total rebounds.  Dallas is fifth worst.  Dwight Howard, who trails only Kevin Love for the league lead individually, put up 35-19 against Detroit, who features a pretty good frontline of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.  Dallas has little to no hope of winning the rebound battle, but keeping it close will be imperative, as Houston has too much firepower to be given second and third chances.

Who might be due for a big game?

Call me crazy, but I think this is where Samuel Dalembert has to play.  DeJuan Blair seems to have taken ahold of the starting center spot, and after Dalembert looked rejuvenated last Wednesday against Memphis, he went back to being invisible this past weekend.  Dalembert is the only center physically capable of getting in Dwight Howard's way, and I fear what sort of video game-like statline Howard will put up if he gets a steady diet of undersized Blair and Wright.  Get ready for some hack-a-Dwight.

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