The Dallas Mavericks will travel to Houston to take on the new-look Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back, and in all likelihood, Luka Doncic will return to the lineup after being a late scratch for Sunday’s game against the Bulls.
The Rockets are busy integrating a few mid-2000s superstars like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (Wall looks very good, by the way), while treading water until the inevitable James Harden trade.
Winners of two straight (both against the Sacramento Kings), the Rockets may be without James Harden who missed a game with an ankle injury. With Wall, Eric Gordon, and Christian Wood, Houston still has plenty of firepower. Here’s what to watch for Monday:
After breaking out late last season with the Detroit Pistons, Wood burst onto the scene in his fifth NBA campaign. The 25-year-old is averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks in nearly 27 minutes per game. While the Mavericks continue to start Dwight Powell, the Rockets should look to exploit that mismatch most times down the floor. The Mavericks deploy a platoon with their big men but none are capable of slowing Wood on his own.
Through four games the Mavericks are emphasizing the turnover battle. The team is sporting an 18.1 opponent turnover percentage (2nd best) and scoring 19.4 points per game (9th best) off of turnovers. The Rockets just so happen to allow 19.8 points off miscues (10th most) per game while the Mavericks allow only 14.8 (fifth fewest). For the season Dallas is turning the ball over only 12 times per game (second fewest), so if they can limit miscues and continue to cause disruption on defense, the Mavericks will be in a prime position to win the game.
Pushing the pace
While the Mavericks play at a slow pace, they take advantage of their opportunities to run, scoring 19.2 fastbreak points (3rd most). Meanwhile, the Rockets allow their opponents to collect 17.3 fastbreak points per game which is the second-most in the league. Assuming Doncic is back, the Mavericks should be able to hit the break quickly as long as they corral long rebounds from the Rockets’ long three-point attempts.
How to watch
The game tips off at 7 p.m. CST and can be watched on FSSW or NBA League Pass.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com and current as of January 3