The Dallas Mavericks (29-18) head to Houston to play the Rockets (29-18). It’s a battle of the current fifth and sixth seeds in the Western Conference, with each time coming off of losses they’d rather soon forget.
This will be the second of four match ups this season. The previous contest saw Dallas roll in Houston, 137-123 as the five out offense of befuddled the Rockets just enough where the Mavericks kept pace for most of the game. Dallas used numerous soft double teams to throw James Harden off rhythm enough to allow Dallas to escape with a big road win.
Here’s some pre-game thoughts before we tune in Friday night:
Which Houston Rockets team shows up?
After a triumphant road win against the Utah Jazz, where the Rockets were without James Harden and where Eric Gordon poured in 50 points, Houston stumbled against the struggling Blazers.
The Rockets are capable of greatness but have seemed listless this season, as if years of playing in an iso-heavy offense has started to wear down both Harden, who does most of the heavy lifting, and his teammates, who may just be coasting towards the playoffs.
And that doesn’t mention the weird x-factor that Russell Westbrook is. His addition this year has provided mixed results, at best.
Playoff seeding implications
There’s plenty of time left in season, but with how both teams are playing in the second half of the year, it’s worth pointing out how important this game may look in a few weeks.
Dallas is 7-0 in the division and 1-0 against Houston specifically. The Rockets are a mere 4-4 including a loss to Dallas. A win for Dallas would put even more distance between the teams in the division column, which is important if both teams were to finish with the same record. The Thunder are also right on the heels of both the Mavericks and Rockets.
There’s an argument though, that the Mavericks could be better suited to the playoffs as a lower seed. Though Denver, Utah, and the Clippers have just a muddy a situation as Dallas, Houston, and the Clippers, it’s fairly safe to say the Mavericks would like to avoid the Clippers if at all possible.
Of course, a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in many years likely won’t be choosy at all. It’s simply something to wonder down the home stretch as the Mavericks position themselves for the playoffs.
Will the Maverick depth rise to the challenge?
Dwight Powell is out for the year. Luka Doncic is day-to-day with an ankle injury and isn’t in Houston. Tim Hardaway Jr. is questionable with a sore back.
One pre-season point for the Mavericks were home many players they had in their rotation who were fringe starters. The depth of this team gets a test Friday and it’s worth considering who can or will step up, particularly if Tim Hardaway Jr. doesn’t play. Rick Carlisle’s preached process over results going back to preseason, so it will be interesting to see what sort of offense Dallas can manufacturer with this many core pieces struggling.
If Hardaway does play, the Mavericks become a sneaky bet to win. If he isn’t able to suit up, it would be another frustrating game for Dallas fans.
How to watch
Dallas is on national TV again on ESPN at 7:30 pm central time.