Game 24 Preview: Mavs vs Rockets

The Dallas Mavericks return to the AAC tonight for an early 5pm tipoff against the rival Houston Rockets.  The Mavericks smoked the Rockets by 20 points just a few weeks ago in front of the Houston crowd.  Reigning MVP James Harden and company will be looking for revenge, this time with running mate Chris Paul active for the matchup.

The Mavericks are coming off yet another road loss in their disappointing effort against the Pelicans on Wednesday for the second night of a back-to-back.  Off since then, they should be well rested and well motivated to come out and put on a show for a big divisional matchup at home.  The Southwest Division looks to be crowded, yet winnable this year, but in order to do so we need to perform at our best against division opponents.  That has not been the case for the Mavericks this season, just 1-3 with one game played against each team in the division.  The unfortunate thing for the Mavs is that all 4 division games so far have been on the road, this will be their first home division matchup and a chance to start improving on that 1-3 record.  Even with that poor record so far, the Mavs are still 2nd in the division and only 2.5 games behind the 5-seed Memphis Grizzlies.

Southwest Division W L GB
Memphis Grizzlies (5) 15 9
Dallas Mavericks (9) 12 11 2.5
New Orleans Pelicans (12) 13 14 3.5
San Antonio Spurs (13) 12 14 4
Houston Rockets (14) 11 13 4

It appears the Mavericks will be without defensive spark plug and playmaker, Dennis Smith Jr again today as he re-aggravated his wrist injury in the final minutes of the Portland game on Tuesday which caused him to miss Wednesday’s loss against the Pelicans.  I think this sets the stage for Luka Doncic to get his second start at point guard and Dorian Finney-Smith should slide in as the Small Forward.  Certainly not his best performance against the Pelicans, Luka will be looking to bounce back from his 2-8 shooting night where he ended with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Last game against the Rockets, in Houston, Luka Doncic went full WonderBoy.  Step back fadeaway 3s from the corner, half court buzzer-beater, and rim-rattling dunks in traffic, Luka put together a highlight reel that put him on the national medias radar.

 

I have a feeling MVP James Harden did not take too kindly to being shown up in his own building by a teenager so I expect him to want to come out and make a statement in Dallas tonight.  He is certainly capable of doing so, he already has a 50 points game this year in late November when he dropped 54 with 13 assists and 8 rebounds against the Wizards.  Funny thing is, in that impressive individual performance he had 11 turnovers and lost to a struggling Wizards team.  Even if Harden has a crazy statistical game the Rockets are very beatable right now.  Mavericks defense, primarily Matthews and Finney-Smith will have to make things difficult on Harden so we can assure he will be his normal lazy defensive self and allow the Mavericks to get to the rim at will.

One major difference in this game compared to our last matchup with the Rockets is the return of Chris Paul.  I have heard a lot of talk about the regression of Chris Paul this season but I think that is just searching for a scapegoat because the team is struggling.  Here are Chris Paul’s numbers over the past two seasons compared to his career averages:

Age G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% REB AST STL TOV PTS
17-18 32 58 31.8 46% 38% 53% 92% 5.4 7.9 1.7 2.2 18.6
18-19 33 19 33.7 43% 35% 49% 80% 4.4 7.9 2.1 3.3 16.4
Career 911 35.3 47% 37% 51% 87% 4.5 9.7 2.2 2.4 18.7

Points are down, shooting percentages are down, and turnovers are up for CP3 so far this year compared to last year and his carer averages.  It has just been a poor shooting start for Paul to start this season.  If he just hit one more 3 pointer a game and shot his normal free-throw percentage he would be right back his normal statistics.  The rumor I have heard is that he looks a little out of shape right now so as soon as he works into game shape I expect these shooting numbers to draw closer to the mean over time.  The change in assists numbers the last two years relative to his career average can easily be attributed to playing with another ball-dominant player in James Harden.

Remember, The Mavericks 8 game home winning streak is on the line.  So get ROWDY, get LOUD, and get PROUD and lets hold down the fortress that is the American Airlines Center.  MFFLs GET UP!

 

Matchup Summary:

Dallas Mavericks Houston Rockets
Record  12-11  11-13
Position 9th in West 14th in West
PPG 110.6 (14th) 108.5 (21st)
Points Allowed 109.6 (11th) 109.8 (13th)
Pace 100.3 (11th) 96.0 (29th)
FG % 45.8% (14th) 44.6% (22nd)
3p % 35.5% (11th) 33.8% (24th)
FT % 74.7% (20th) 75.1% (19th)
RPG 45.4 41.1
APG 22.9 21.1
TO 16.0 14.3

 

Projected Starting Lineups:

Dallas Mavericks PTS REB AST STL BLK
PG Luka Doncic 18.1 6.5 4.3 1 0.4
SG Wesley Matthews 15.5 2.6 2.4 0.8 0.2
SF Dorian Finney-Smith 8.7 4.3 0.8 1.2 0.5
PF Harrison Barnes 17.8 4.6 1.3 0.8 0.3
C DeAndre Jordan 11.1 13.5 2.2 0.6 1
Houston Rockets PTS REB AST STL BLK
PG Chris Paul 16.4 4.4 7.9 2.1 0.3
SG James Harden 29.8 5.6 8.3 2.1 0.6
SF James Ennis 8.2 2.6 0.7 1 0.4
PF PJ Tucker 7.7 6.2 1.1 1.3 0.4
C Clint Capela 17.8 11.7 1.6 0.5 2.2

 

Injury Report:

Player Team Description
Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks Out (Foot)
Dennis Smith Jr Dallas Mavericks Doubtful (Wrist)
Salah Mejri Dallas Mavericks Questionable (Knee)
Marquese Chriss Houston Rockets Out (Ankle)
Brandon Knight Houston Rockets Out (Knee)
Zhou Qi Houston Rockets Out (Ankle)
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