The Mavericks are in Houston tonight to play the Rockets for the third time already this season. It will probably not surprise you to learn that things did not go particularly well for the Mavs in either of their previous meetings.
The two teams met in a home-away back in October, and Houston took both games, though the second was quite close. Dallas closed a 10-point deficit in the fourth only to see the game slip away thanks to (naturally) a James Harden free-throw.
The Mavericks were closer to full strength for that game, missing only Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris, but it’s worth looking at what went right in that game to see what the Mavericks need to do to stay in tonight’s game. Houston may be a .682 team currently sitting at fourth in the Western Conference standings, but they still have weaknesses as a team.
Take advantage of second-chance points
Unsurprising for a Mike D’Antoni-led team, the Houston Rockets run a high-powered offense at the expense of an elite defense. The team is tied with the Cavaliers for third in the league in offensive efficiency, but falls all the way off to 22nd (tied with the Sixers) on defense.
The Rockets gave up some interior defense when they lost Dwight Howard, and the Mavericks were able to exploit that last time, pulling down over 30 percent more offensive rebounds than their season average. This helped the team weather a 38 percent shooting night, and if they can take advantage of this opportunity again, they may be able to pull off an upset.
Have a good three-point shooting night
The Mavs haven’t been a good three-point shooting team this season, but they have had their moments and the trend has been generally upward. The Rockets have generally let their opponents shoot better than their season averages, and the Mavs were no exception last time the teams played, going 36.7 percent on an otherwise horrible shooting night.
Prevent James Harden from getting to the line
Saved the hardest for last! Harden is having a fantastic season by almost any measure, and that includes his free throw attempt rate as well as the raw number of free-throws he takes in any given game (he’s third in the league). The Mavericks don’t generally have a problem with fouls, but keeping James Harden from hitting his league-leading 8.9 free throws, one of which cost the Mavs their last match, will be challenging to say the least.
How to watch
Tonight’s game tips off at 7:00pm Central and can be seen on FSSW or NBA League Pass.