The Mavericks get a chance to avenge their home-opening loss and return the favor as the Rockets open at Toyota Center today. The Mavericks lost the first matchup 106-98 after the Rockets closed out the third quarter with a 10-2 run and never looked back. Dallas was missing Dirk Nowitzki due to a stomach ailment, and though he’s traveling with the team to Houston, his status for Sunday will be a game-day call.
Harrison Barnes had a career-best scoring night as he lead the Mavericks with 31 points on an efficient 23 shots, getting it done both from deep (2-4) and at the line (3-3) and completely justifying the max contract forever. The rest of the starters were also productive. Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea all scored in double-digits, and Andrew Bogut led the Mavs with 12 rebounds.
However, the Rockets got some "random starter having a big game" mojo, with Trevor Ariza going off for 27 points and Eric Gordon scoring 18. The two combined with James Harden (26 points) for 73 points while all other Rockets only scored single digits.
Here are the keys for the Mavericks tonight as they seek to spoil the Rockets’ home-opener:
Continued excellence from Barnes
Whether Nowitzki comes back or not, the Mavs will need another strong performance from Barnes to beat the Rockets. Barnes is off to a sparkling start, averaging 25 points and seven rebounds per game with a blistering 65.2 true shooting percentage. With another strong game, he could find himself on the fast track to becoming a certified Rockets killer.
With or without Dirk, Barnes will need to score efficiently, guard multiple positions and log heavy minutes to offset the Rockets’ production from their swing players. Barnes seems to play better at the four than he does as the three, so it will be interesting to see how he is used if Dirk plays.
Finding some bench production
Outside of J.J. Barea, the Mavericks have yet to see a bench player score double-digits, and Barea was moved into the starting lineup with Dirk out. Newcomer Seth Curry has been productive in his limited minutes but has been hampered by foul trouble, committing 10 fouls in 36 minutes, which translates to 10 fouls per 36 minutes (#analytics). He’ll need to stay out of foul trouble, especially if Barea is pressed into the starting lineup again.
Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell also need to step up on offense. Powell has been shy about shooting the ball with only three field goal attempts so far and needs to find some shots.
Outperforming the Rockets from deep
Not surprisingly, a Daryl Morey-constructed roster coached by Mike D’Antoni is going to depend on the three ball. The Rockets, who made 15 of 32 from deep (47 percent) on Friday, will continue to launch with Harden, Ariza, Gordon and Ryan Anderson in their starting lineup. Anderson, who was quiet on Friday with five points, could erupt at any time, so the Mavericks will have to focus on defending the three and force the Rockets to find non-Rocket-y ways to score.
The Mavericks’ did give up 53 percent from three against the Pacers, so a lack of perimeter defense may be an early trend to pay attention to.
The Mavericks themselves are actually tied for the lead in three point attempts at 38.5 per game and should continue to fire from deep. Wesley Matthews finding his rhythm would be big, as he has started the season an icy 3-18 from three.
How to watch
You can catch this game on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass. Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. CST.