The Dallas Mavericks (20-16) defeated the Houston Rockets (10-25) on Thursday night, 129-114. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to their fifth straight win with 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists. Jalen Green paced the Rockets with 23 points.
The Mavericks started off the first quarter with good energy, attacking Houston off the dribble and getting to the line early and often. Unfortunately, the hot shooting from rookie Jabari Smith Jr. kept Houston in the game. Luka Doncic scored an easy 14 in the frame as every Maverick starter got on the board in the opening twelve minutes. Dallas led the Rockets 36-30 after one.
The second quarter was a grindy affair; points were few and far between and the referees called many fouls in the first six minutes of the frame. The Mavericks found some offense once Luka returned and built a double digit lead through the Doncic-Dwight Powell connection. The lid came off the basket for the Rockets as well but they couldn’t chip into the Maverick lead. Doncic hit a wild three to end the quarter and the Mavericks took a 65-51 lead into the half.
The wheels came off for Houston in the third, as Dallas pressured the rim on both ends and the Mavericks started to hit threes. Christian Wood scored 12 in the first six-plus minutes of the quarter but also picked up his fourth and fifth fouls, forcing him to the bench. It didn’t matter though, as the putrid Rocket defense couldn’t stop Luka Doncic from running the Dallas offense. The Mavericks entered the final frame up 99-79.
Luka Doncic played until about the eight minute mark of the fourth, in an attempt to help pace the Mavericks enough to hold off Houston for the rest of the game. The bench unit and end of bench unit would proceed to hold the lead for the rest of the game. The Dallas Mavericks are still streaking, winning five straight, this time defeating the Rockets, 129-114.
Beating up on a bad team
Up until this recent win streak, the Mavericks had a rather putrid record against teams under .500. During this win streak, Dallas hasn’t been able to run away with one, but there’s good reason for that with so many injuries to key players. So seeing Dallas bring the hammer against a very bad Rockets team was really nice to see.
Luka Doncic in particular had a bit of a built in excuse to come out slow, scoring 60 points in a draining overtime win on Tuesday. Yet he attacked early and kept it up the whole game. We’re fast approaching the slog point of the season and after a December with so many games, it’s understandable if the Mavericks are tired. But if they want to avoid the play in, they’re all going to have to find a reason to play hard night in and out, particularly against lesser teams.
Team on the run
There was a pretty amusing discussion in the first half with the Dallas broadcast crew where they wondered out loud why Dallas isn’t more of a transition team. They know the answer, but it’s understandable why they don’t say it: Luka Doncic.
Dallas doesn’t run because Doncic doesn’t push after makes and rarely advances the ball in transition to other teammates. They tend to play faster when he’s on the bench. Against the Rockets, Dallas opted to push early and often and took advantage of a poorly disciplined Houston team. The 25-3 fast break points advantage has to be their biggest points advantage in this category all season. I understand why they don’t run more, but it might benefit the Mavericks to surprise teams more often by pushing the pace.
Christian Wood block party
It’s a pretty good bet that Christian Wood is well aware of his eight game streak of two more blocks. He had four tonight against Houston, which didn’t cost Dallas, but if he’s going to be more aggressive defensively in this way, he’ll also need to be aware of his fouls. Using that length to the advantage of Dallas is a great thing, particularly since Dallas doesn’t have much in the form of team rim defense, but Wood’s valuable to what Dallas does and it’s important he avoid foul trouble.
You can listen to our latest podcast episode in the player embedded below, and to make sure you don’t miss a single one moving forward, subscribe to the Mavs Moneyball podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Pocketcasts, or Castbox.
You can check our our After Dark Recap podcasts, Spotify Live recordings, Moneyball Minute shows, and guest shows on the Mavs Moneyball Podcast feed. Please subscribe, rate, and review.