Mavericks-Rockets Preview

Without several of their top perimeter players, the Houston

Rockets overcame depleted depth by finding their big man down

low.

Dwight Howard may once again play an expanded role when the

Rockets host the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.

Howard was a force for the Rockets in their last game despite

not having much help. With James Harden sidelined because of a

sprained right ankle, Jeremy Lin out with a sprained hand and

starting point guard Patrick Beverley limited to 14:35 because of

fractured right hand, Howard came through. He scored 35 points, his

high with the Rockets (18-10), and pulled down 19 rebounds to help

Houston to a 114-97 victory over Detroit on Saturday.

“I just told my teammates to trust me and understand we play

inside-out,” said Howard, who also had five assists. “I try to make

the best plays I can for this team and I just want to win. The most

important part about winning is getting everyone involved and we

did an excellent job (against the Pistons).”

With the statuses of Harden, Beverley and Lin uncertain against

the Mavericks, Howard and the team’s other role players may need to

step up again. Chandler Parsons scored 20 points Saturday and

Francisco Garcia added 16, both above their season averages, and

Houston shot 55.7 percent.

“We just have to go out there and play. It does not matter how

many guys we have,” coach Kevin McHale said. “It does not matter

who is playing or who is not playing. We just have to go there and

play together and play with some toughness. Toughness and

togetherness overcomes a lot of stuff.”

Howard managed only 13 points in the first meeting of the season

with Dallas, though he grabbed 16 rebounds in a 113-105 home

victory Nov. 1. In the second matchup Nov. 20, he scored 33 points

and shot 12 of 16 with 11 boards, but the Mavs rallied to win

123-120 by outscoring the visiting Rockets 36-19 in the fourth

quarter.

Dallas (15-12) has dropped two in a row and four of six, and

it’s coming off its worst defensive performance of the season. The

Mavs lost 123-108 to Phoenix on Saturday, allowing the Suns to go

15 of 30 from 3-point range while Dallas was 3 of 17.

The poor perimeter defense has been costly to the Mavs all

season, as they rank in the bottom half of the league in 3-point

field-goal defense at 36.6 percent.

“I think our biggest challenge right now is to stay disciplined

in some defensive situations,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve had

too many gambles, too many bad fouls in late shot clock and too

many things that lead to chain reactions that we’ve got to

eliminate.”