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Showdown in Big D as Mavericks face Rockets

Separated by only a game in the standings, the Mavericks host the Rockets to keep their season alive.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks face the Houston Rockets on national TV in what is probably the biggest game of the least until their next one.

What have the Rockets done lately?

Houston's season looked like it was going to have trouble getting off the runway right from the start, and almost six months later we're still talking about how inconsistent this admittedly talented team is.  After blowing a big lead late (Mavs fans know something about this themselves) in a loss to the Bulls, Houston responded with an impressive win Sunday over the Oklahoma City Thunder that saw James Harden put up 41 against his former team.  Overall, though, the Rockets have won just three of their last eight, so they really are something of a true wild card.

What happened the last time these two teams met?

Back on January 24th the Rockets defeated the Mavericks in Houston 115-104. Interestingly enough, both teams played without their starting centers, but Houston got a triple-double from Harden and 29 points from Trevor Ariza (including six threes) in the win. If you are a plus/minus watcher, you may remember this was the curious night when Chandler Parsons led all scorers with 31 and was 10-15 from the floor, but finished with a ghastly minus-30, easily worst on the team.

What will be the biggest matchup?

Dwight Howard should be in action this time around, and it will be curious to see who Carlisle matches him up with. Salah Mejri actually got the start back on January 24th when Zaza was out and had a double-double, but was minus-22. I'd guess Zaza makes the most sense to provide some bulk against Howard. The most crucial matchup I think should be Wesley Matthews against Harden. Lately the Rockets have gone as far as Harden can take them, so slowing him down a bit would go a long way for the home team.

How to watch

This one gets underway at 9:30 Eastern Time (8:30 CT) on ESPN. It will the second game of a double-header, following Cleveland and Indiana.  Let's go Mavs!