Tip-off is at 7 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest at the Toyota Center.
What have the Rockets done lately?
The Rockets won both of their games over the weekend (they're coming off of two days rest) and are currently tied with the Clippers for fourth in the West, just one game ahead of Dallas. Perhaps the most notable move the Rockets have made recently, though, was signing Josh Smith at the end of December after he was waived by Detroit, a decision that has seemed to pay dividends for the Pistons.
So how is Josh Smith working out for Houston?
Detroit may be playing like a completely different team since jettisoning Smith, but fortunately for Houston, signing him doesn't seem to have produced an equal and opposite reaction. The Rockets are 11-7 in the 18 games since they acquired Smith, down several percentage points from their season-long record of .689 but still pretty solid.
That's not to say Smith has turned his game around in Houston. His 2-point field goal percentage is improved, but he's also been taking more 3-point shots (no surprise, given that Houston leads the league in 3-point attempts) and making them at an even lower clip (22 percent) than he did in Detroit. His turnovers are also way up, again not a huge surprise since this is something Houston struggles with as a team.
Right now Smith is sharing minutes with Donatas Motiejunas, but the real question is how those minutes will be allocated once starting power forward Terrence Jones returns from injury, which may happen as soon as tonight's game. Jones is a much better player than either Smith or Motiejunas, and if he's slow to return to form or isn't given minutes, that could mean that the Rockets will continue to slip in the tough Western Conference.
What team stat could determine the game?
In some respects, the Mavericks and Rockets are mirror images of each other: one at the top of the league in offense but unable to climb out of the middle of the pack on defense, and the other playing top-tier defense but unable to get their offense firing on all cylinders. But when it comes to three-point shooting, they look pretty similar, at least when you look at makes.
Both teams are shooting on average a little over 35 percent. The difference, though, is in attempts and perimeter defense. The Rockets lead the league in 3-point attempts and are generally able to hold opponents to around 31 percent, while Dallas takes seven fewer 3-point shots per game and has allowed opponents to shoot nearly 37 percent. This made a big difference last time these two teams met. Both teams shot worse and more frequently than they normally do, but Dallas took the bigger hit, getting up fewer attempts than Houston and making a dismal 17.5 percent of them. But with Dallas' improved perimeter defense and Josh Smith's poor 3-point shooting, things could go differently tonight.
What are the match-ups to watch?
Things did not go well last time the Mavericks traveled to Houston. The final score may have been close, but it was frustrating to watch Chandler Parsons' total collapse against his old team, so keep an eye on Parsons vs. himself tonight. Parsons seems to have found his rhythm since November (although Austin has some ideas how he could be better used), so it should be interesting to see how he handles this second trip to Houston. Fingers crossed he can do better than 0-5 from deep.
Unlike Parsons, James Harden had a devastating night during that first game, scoring 32 points and making four of his nine 3-point attempts against a Mavs backcourt that could charitably be described as porous. But this time he'll have to contend with Rajon Rondo, who should be able to make him work harder for those perimeter shots.
As mentioned earlier, power forward Terrence Jones may return tonight. Dwight Howard is still listed as a game-time decision after tweaking his ankle in practice yesterday. The Mavericks will be at full strength.