Mavericks-Rockets Preview

While the Dallas Mavericks have had their way with the Houston

Rockets of late, they’re not expecting anything to come easy during

a crucial home-and-home set.

Hoping to make up some ground in the standings, the visiting

Mavericks go for a 10th consecutive win over the Rockets on Sunday


Dallas (26-32) has its work cut out if it hopes to catch Houston

(32-28), which sits in the eighth and final playoff spot in the

Western Conference. The Mavericks are five games behind the

Rockets, but sweeping the next two games could help them get back

in the mix.

These Southwest Division rivals conclude their season series

Wednesday in Dallas.

“It’s been a frustrating and disappointing season obviously

overall. We lost a couple of close games that we thought we

should’ve had,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We have to go in with a free

mindset and kind of forget what happened so far and let it all rip.

Houston is a great team. (James) Harden is having a phenomenal

year. They’re a tough team. They’re fast, athletic. So we got our

hands full.”

Dallas has taken nine straight from Houston – the last eight by

single digits – for its longest win streak in the 33-year history

of this rivalry. The Mavericks overcame Harden’s 39 points thanks

to a career high-tying 40 from O.J. Mayo in a 116-109 road win Dec.

8, then pulled out a 105-100 home victory Jan. 16.

“That’s a (team that’s) ahead of us and gives us the opportunity

to gain ground and make them back track a little bit,” Mayo said of

the Rockets.

Two nights after blowing a 25-point lead versus Memphis, Dallas

nearly let a 20-point lead slip away Friday before winning 98-90 at

Brooklyn to snap a three-game skid. Nowitzki and Vince Carter

scored 20 points apiece while Mayo added 17 for the Mavericks, who

shot 50.0 percent.

“They’re all big, and in dropping the last three, we needed

one,” coach Rick Carlisle told the team’s official website. “We put

together a solid game and we were solid enough to beat one of the

better teams in the East, so that’s a good sign for us. … We’ve

just got to keep emphasizing the importance of playing 48 minutes

and not 20.”

The Rockets avoided a third straight loss Friday, winning

118-110 at Orlando. Harden scored 24 points while Chandler Parsons

and Carlos Delfino each had 21.

“All these games are going to count, especially if we want to

make the playoff push,” Harden said. “We try not to (think about

it), because we try not to get sidetracked by thinking about too

many other things.”

While Houston’s 106.6 points per game rank as the NBA’s

second-highest mark, it is yielding an average of 103.7 to rank

29th. The Mavericks are 22-7 when scoring at least 103 points

compared to 4-25 when they don’t.

“We have to definitely sharpen up defensively,” said Parsons,

averaging 21.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting over the last three

games. “I think it is a lot of mental things that we are having

breakdowns on, but honestly it is just effort. We have to have all

of our focus on that end.

“We’re trying to make a playoff push and we’re not just trying

to get in, we’re trying to get a better seed.”

Slowing down Nowitzki could prove key in these next two games.

The former league MVP is averaging 21.2 points – 5.1 more than his

season mark – on 53.2 percent shooting over the last five


Dallas is 35-7 all-time versus Houston when Nowitzki scores at

least 16 points. He had 19 in the Jan. 16 victory after missing the

first matchup due to injury.