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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks battle the Rockets

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The Mavericks are back home to face the James Harden and Chris Paul led Houston Rockets Saturday evening

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday evening the Dallas Mavericks (12-11) will take on the Houston Rockets (11-13) at the American Airlines Center, the second time they’ve met in ten days. Both teams are coming off tough road losses. The Mavericks, winners of nine of their last twelve games, got hammered in New Orleans on the second night of a back-to-back. The Rockets, who have yet to find their footing all season and have lost six of their last eight, were beat badly in Salt Lake City on Thursday night.

The last time these teams met the Rockets were without starting point guard Chris Paul. The Mavericks took advantage and hammered Houston on the road, winning 128-108. Things truly got out of hand when veteran guard Devin Harris got hot from deep, scoring 20 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three.

Here’s what we’ll be paying attention to in tonight’s matchup:

There’s no place like home...and rest

The Mavs are 6-0 this season when they get at least two days of rest, and are 10-2 at home this season. Their last home loss was way back on November 2nd, in embarrassing fashion, to the New York Knicks. It was their final loss in an ugly six game losing streak, just before everything turned around for the Mavericks (they’ve gone 10-4 since).

The Houston Rockets are a mediocre 6-8 on the road this season. A team known for their reliance on three point shooting, the Rockets shoot a little worse on the road (35 percent to 33 percent). And in losses, their average drops to 30 percent. When these teams last played the Mavericks were a scorching 17-of-34 from deep, and the Rockets were an awful 13-of-45 (29 percent). How the Rockets shoot on the road, and more specifically from deep, may be the story of the game.

CP3 oh he’s back

Nine-time All-Star Chris Paul has played in 19 games this season. He’s played in the four Rockets games since they faced the Mavericks. They’ve gone 2-2 in those games, with Paul averaging 11 points and nine assists (but also shooting 22 percent from three!) in 30 minutes per game.

He’s been dealing with a hamstring injury, and is still trying to regain his footing. While playing for the Rockets last season Paul averaged 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds against the Mavericks. With Dennis Smith Jr. doubtful for the game (still dealing with a wrist injury) some collection of Wesley Matthews, Dorian Finney-Smith, and the bench guards will be tasked with disrupting Paul’s game as he tries to get on track.

The D in Dallas stands for...defense?

I’ve made plenty of _allas Mavericks jokes, because for long stretches in the past the D was completely nonexistent. But not now. Currently 12th in the league, after the rough start to the year the Mavericks have been in the top ten in defensive rating. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly has brought about this change, other than to see an uptick in effort, chemistry, and the team buying in to taking pride in their collective game.

And when the team is at home, their effectiveness has seen an even greater surge. The change in defensive rating from road to home is a little over three points, with the change in net rating is over 15 points. The best teams in the league don’t have that sort of shift in performance from home to the road, but quality teams take care of home court, and the Mavs are doing just that. And it’s not just against bad teams.

For the Mavericks to continue their push to be a competitive and relevant team, they have to maintain this defensive output. Saturday night is another great opportunity.

How to Watch

Tip off is set for 5 Central, and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest, the Fox Sports Go app, or NBA League Pass.