Game 19 Preview: Mavs @ Rockets

The Mavs are in Houston tonight, trying to get their first divisional win of the season.  7-3 in their last 10 games, the Mavericks have officially turned things around since their early season struggles and have battled back to .500.  Tonight they take on reigning MVP, James Harden, and a Rockets team that is last in the Southwest Division.

Matchup Summary:

Dallas Mavericks Houston Rockets
Record  9-9  9-10
Position T-8th in West T-11th in West
PPG 110.1 108.2
Points Allowed 108.6 109.3
FG % 46.2% 44.3%
3p % 35.7% 34.1%
FT % 74.8% 74.9%
RPG 44.6 40.8
APG 22.7 20.4
TO 16.1 13.9

Projected Starting Lineups:

Dallas Mavericks PTS REB AST STL BLK
PG Dennis Smith, Jr 14.1 2.7 3.9 1.1 0.4
SG Wesley Matthews 16.1 2.6 2.3 0.9 0.2
SF Luka Doncic 19.1 6.6 4.3 0.9 0.2
PF Harrison Barnes 17.1 4.6 1.3 0.9 0.2
C DeAndre Jordan 11.4 13.6 2.4 0.7 1
Houston Rockets PTS REB AST STL BLK
PG James Harden 31.5 5.3 8.2 2.3 0.6
SG Eric Gordon 16.1 2.6 1.9 0.6 0.4
SF James Ennis 8.3 2.4 0.7 1.1 0.4
PF PJ Tucker 8.2 6.2 1.2 1.3 0.5
C Clint Capela 17.3 12 1.7 0.5 2.1

Injury Report:

Player Team Description
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks Questionable (Illness)
Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks Out (Foot)
Dwight Powell Dallas Mavericks Questionable (Left knee)
Dennis Smith Jr Dallas Mavericks Questionable (Wrist)
Gerald Green Houston Rockets Questionable (Ankle)
Nene Hilario Houston Rockets Out (Calf Strain)
Brandon Knight Houston Rockets Out (Knee)
Chris Paul Houston Rockets Questionable (Hamstring)
Zhou Qi Houston Rockets Out (Ankle)

It looked like the Rockets had their season on the right track when they rattled off 5 straight wins, a run that included wins over the Pacers, Nuggets, and Warriors.  They immediately gave up all that momentum by losing 3 straight, including bad losses to the Cavs and Wizards.  Both of those two losses were without Chris Paul, a position the Rockets may find themselves in again tonight.

James Harden is still playing at an MVP level, first in the league in points per game (31.5), fourth in the league in assists per game (8.2), and third in the league in steals per game (2.3).  Even with his impressive stats, the Rockets have not been able to replicate their dominance from last season when they had last season when they went 65-17, the best record in the league.  Last season the Rockets were not only great on offense (1st in offensive rating) but they were great on defense to (6th in defensive rating).  This season they are still pretty good on offense with Harden running the show, but their defense has fallen off a cliff, landing them at 26th in defensive rating.

As fans, we always like to come up with player comparisons for young prospects to try to project how a player will perform over their career.  Of course Luka was no exception to this exercise.  I have heard and read a lot of them, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Pete Maravich, Steve Nash, but really the best player comp might be James Harden.  I know it may seem cheap to compare him to the reigning MVP but I think it really fits.  They both can shoot, pass, and dribble at an elite level and have the same signature move (step back 3).  Now if only Luka could get the same calls as Harden we would be all set.  Luka has been getting pounded over his first 18 but luckily has yet to miss a single game.  I hate to say it, but in order to protect himself and get to the line more, we may need Luka to take a page out of Harden’s book and learn a little bit about offensive flopping.

The Mavericks are looking like a playoff team, with Luka’s starpower and the bench’s dominance if they keep playing like they have in November they will certainly find themselves in the top 8 of the West by season’s end.  The Mavs are in a tough stretch of games, their next 5 after this are @Lakers, Clippers, Blazers, @Pelicans, Rockets.  Every win is big, it looks like the West will be a very tight race just like it was last year when the 3rd and 9th place team were separated by only 3 games.  Here’s to another Mavericks win, cheers!

And for those of you who have not heard this yet, you’re welcome…

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