Finally — basketball (that counts) is back. The scrimmages went pretty well for the Mavericks, winning against the Lakers and Sixers with their only loss coming against the Pacers. Now that the players hopefully have their game lungs and legs back, it’s time for to get competitive starting with this game against Houston.
This game serves as the tiebreaker as the teams have split the regular season series at 1-1. The Rockets currently sit at the six seed in the West just 1.5 games ahead of the Mavericks. Winning toss-up games like these will be pivotal in ensuring Dallas moves up in the standings for a more favorable playoff match-up. What will they need to do to win this first one? Here are three things that could be keys to a victory.
Fluke or forecast?
The three scrimmages proved to be very different experiences for the Mavericks starting wings. Seth Curry had an unreal three games that started with a perfect shooting night against the Lakers. He finished the scrimmages making a combined 13-of-24 (54.1%) field goals and making 9-of-15 (60%) three-point attempts. While Curry thrived, it was a different story for Tim Hardaway Jr. He ended his three game shooting slump with a combined 8-for-26 (30.7%) from the field and 6-for-16 (37.5%) beyond the arc. Were these performances a sign of what’s to come or just some stray scrimmage stats? Their performances in this first game back could erase the doubt or add to it.
Undersized Front Courts
The Houston Rockets haven’t started a seven footer since Tyson Chandler got the opportunity on Christmas Day of 2019. It’s no secret that the Rockets embrace small-ball lineups. Robert Covington (who is the same height as Luka Doncic) is Houston’s primary “center”, playing 83 percent of his minutes at the five this season. While Covington has embraced the role, averaging a career high in rebounds and blocks, throwing all 7 foot 3 inches of Kristaps Porzingis at him should be terrifying. Expect the Mavericks to find plenty of ways to get Porzingis and even Boban Marjanovic inside looks as they have been incredibly effective. Look at the field day Porzingis had in the paint during his only meeting against the new-look Rockets:
The Three Ball
The Houston Rockets shoot the three-point ball more frequently than any other team in the league, taking 44.3 per game. While Houston shoots them more often, Dallas shoots them much more efficiently. The Mavericks have the eighth best three-point percentage while the Rockets place all the way down at 23rd.
This efficiency makes Dallas the league leader in percentage of total points coming from three-point field goals. The combination of a consistent deep shot along with mismatches inside could prove to be too much offense for the Rockets to overcome, especially with the Rockets likely being without the sharpshooting Eric Gordon.
How to watch
This game is set to tip-off at 8:00 PM Central time and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN with a local broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.