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3 things to watch for as the Rockets come to Dallas

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Another Mavericks-Rockets game, another back-to-back. (What gives, NBA?)

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Dallas is coming off a tough loss in a game they really needed to win against New Orleans if they were going to make their recent successes on the court into a credible playoff push. Houston has beaten Dallas three times this year, by margins of 8, 1, and 22, respectively. Early on, Dallas did a great job of dragging Houston into a slower game. Now, Houston’s offense is humming and Dallas may or may not have a Dirk Nowitzki who is still working himself back into game shape.

At 23-9, the Rockets are favored to take home the W tonight. Against Houston, the most important factor for Dallas is control. With Clint Capela out, they must control the glass. They need to convert turnovers into points, and they absolutely must control the free throw line.

Control the free throw line

Last time these two teams met, Dallas was blown out of the water. Houston went to the line for eight more free throws. In their first meeting, Houston made more free throws than Dallas attempted, and they took home a win in spite of Dallas being able to control the pace and make Houston play one of their lowest possession games of the year. Their second game was decided by James Harden at the free throw line as well. Dallas has to limit their fouls and draw contact, especially when Houston now lacks their key rim protector. Watch for Harrison Barnes vs James Harden free throw attempts to be your leading indicator here.

Convert turnovers into points

Over their three previous games, Houston has turned the ball over at roughly double the rate at which Dallas has. These Mavericks guards take care of the ball. However, Houston turns the few turnovers they get into points at a dramatically higher rate. Last game, for instance, with 8 less turnovers to work with, the Rockets still outscored Dallas by 13 in points off turnovers. If the Mavericks will win this game, they absolutely have to convert those precious opportunities into baskets.

Control the glass

Dallas has been out rebounded in all three losses. The amount by which they have been out-rebounded has directly corresponded to the amount by which they lost. In the closest game, they were only out-rebounded by two. Now, with Clint Capela out, Dallas absolutely must control the glass with Salah Mejri (who historically plays very well against Houston), Dwight Powell (whose athleticism may call him into action more than usual against Houston’s small ball lineups), and Barnes.

How to watch

The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. Central time and can be watched on FSSW or NBA League Pass.