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On Saturday, the Dallas Mavericks played the Houston Rockets in their first game back at the American Airlines Center since January 17th. The Mavericks are coming off a three game road trip that saw them go 2-1. This will be the first matchup without James Harden on the team as he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets. The “Battle of Texas” continues as the Mavericks faced the San Antonio Spurs last game.
On Friday, the Mavericks played the San Antonio Spurs on front end of the back-to-back. The Spurs lost starting point guard Dejounte Murray in the early moments of the game after he came down awkwardly on his ankle. After trailing by as much as 18 points, the Spurs were able to come within four points with four minutes remaining in the game. DeMar DeRozan had a chance to tie the game on free-throws but only made one of two to make it 113-112. Luka Doncic then took over as he converted on a 11-footer and found Jalen Brunson for a three pointer in which ultimately sealed the deal for the Mavericks. Luka Doncic finished with 36 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds to carry the Mavericks to the finish line for a 122-117 victory. DeMar DeRozan had 29 points for the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 and Keldon Johnson had 17 points and 14 rebounds as the comeback fell just short. Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr both finished with 21 points for the Mavericks that saw them improved to 8-7 on the season.
The Houston Rockets are coming into this game going 3-2 in their past five games leading to a record of 5-9 on the season. They are recently coming off a 103-102 victory against the Phoenix Suns ton Friday. Coming into this season, the Rockets were filled with offseason drama as they were facing the future of James Harden. They ultimately wound up trading him to the Brooklyn Nets that featured a return of a bunch of draft picks as they look towards the future. The Rockets had hopes of contending in the western conference but that didn’t work out as they got off to a slow start. They can still make a crack at making the playoffs but it will be fairly difficult as they deal with the status of the team.
Entering this game, the Mavericks beat the Rockets in the first meeting of the season 113-100 that saw Luka Doncic recording a triple-double of 33 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The Rockets have taken 14 of the last 19 matchups with the Mavericks claiming the recent victory. Overall, the Rockets lead the all-time series with a record of 98-85 over their in-state rival Dallas Mavericks.
This game started with both teams missing key players as Christian Wood and Kristaps Porzingis were ruled out. The Mavericks continue to be shorthanded as they await on when they will be full strength. The Rockets didn’t let that phase them as they got off to a quick 8-3 lead to begin the first quarter. The Mavericks were slow to get things going as they were making adjustments with Porzingis out. Rick Carlisle had to take a full timeout as the Rockets increased their lead to 11-3 with 8:54 left in the quarter as the Mavericks had only made one field goal. Coming out of the timeout, the Rockets still didn’t cooled off as they had plenty of “Rocket Fuel” to jump out to a 21-9 lead with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way. This is not the type of start the Mavericks wanted as this leaves the paint wide open for opponents to take advantage. Luka Doncic would have to pick up Kristaps Porzingis absence as he would need to have another monster night to carry the Mavericks to victory. The Rockets had liftoff as they exploded to leave the Mavericks behind as they were getting good looks on offense. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Rockets were able to jump out to a 38-27 lead to finish the first quarter. The Mavericks looked like they missed their flight to the moon as the Rockets were already leaving the atmosphere. The top scores in the game included 11 points for Eric Gordon and Luka Doncic for their respective teams. The Rockets shot an incredible 60.9% from the field on 14-23 shooting while the Mavericks shot 55% from the field on 11 of 20 shooting as I don’t know what type of fuel the Mavericks were using. The Mavericks need to drastically improve on defense if they want any hope of making this a game.
The Mavericks were able to build off the final minutes of the first into the second quarter as they made seven straight field goals but even that isn’t enough to erase the deficit. The Rockets continued to take advantage of the struggling Mavericks as they were able to maintain their momentum to increase their lead to 14 points. John Wall was able to find Mason Jones for a 26-foot three pointer as the hot shooting continued to take place for the Rockets. The Rockets began this second quarter by making four of their seven field goals which spells disaster for the Mavericks as their defense continue to be picked apart. Rick Carlisle was forced to call a timeout with 7:31 left in the quarter as the Mavericks needed to be solved with DeMarcus Cousins bullying them in the pain. A first half double-double was achieved by DeMarcus Cousins as he had 11 points and 10 rebounds on 10 minutes of play. The Rockets confidence remained high as Eric Gordon hit a 23-foot three point jumper to take a 58-42 lead as it seem like every time the Rockets shot a three it was going to go in. The Mavericks found themselves in the bonus with 4:09 left in the quarter as they will need a whole bunch of free-throws on top of making their shots, if they want be in the same planet as the Rockets. The Rockets weren’t going to allow the lead to be any less than 10 points as they always had something to answer the Mavericks threat. Rick Carlisle had seen enough at the center position as he desperately needed some production from their big man, so he put James Johnson at the position in hopes of generating a spark. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Rockets were able to use Eric Gordon’s spark as they were able to finish the quarter leading the Mavericks 70-59. The Mavericks couldn’t matchup with the Rockets as they couldn’t get stops on defense. Luka Doncic was the only spark for the Mavericks as he had 20 points while nobody scored more than nine points. The Mavericks have to pick up the pace on defense as they can’t allow the Rockets to take whatever look they wanted. Eric Gordon would lead the Rockets with 19 points but DeMarcus Cousins was not too far behind with 17 points.
Coming out of the half, the Mavericks finally were able to cut the deficit to under 10 points as Boban Marjanovic took advantage of the paint and scored to give him 10 points in the game. The Rockets were starting to have engine problems as the Mavericks have finally jumped on board to their destination by finding their rhythm in the early stages of the quarter. The drought buster from the Rockets was achieved as John Wall made a layup to regain their momentum. Luka Doncic was able to cut the deficit to within three points as he would make a 11-foot pull-up jump shot as the opportunity to steal this game from the Rockets is open. The Rockets were starting to have problems as they were forced to call timeout with 7:48 left in the quarter as they saw the Mavericks go out on a 12-4 run. Coming out of the timeout, the Rockets were able to find DeMarcus Cousins for a wide open three to remain in the drivers seat. With the Rockets struggling to find points on offense, they went to Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins to extend their lead back to ten points. The Mavericks just needed to generate an extra spark as they were right there to take this game away from the Rockets but were unable to do so. The Mavericks were hit with the “Boogie man” in this quarter as they allowed DeMarcus Cousins to hunt them by hitting a couple of three pointers. It looked like the Rockets took their flight on Eric Gordon’s Rocket as he continued to give them a spark when needed. The Mavericks had a chance to tie the game but the Rockets said “not on my watch” as they kept their foot on the gas to pull away. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Rockets were able to take a 104-83 lead heading into the final quarter. The Rockets simply didn’t hit any asteroids on their way to “Planet Victory” as the Mavericks hit every single asteroid on top of getting off track in the third quarter. The Rockets were able to out score the Mavericks 34-24 in the quarter as the Mavericks fell apart late. The Rockets had help from their bench as David Nwaba and Mason Jones were able to help DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon to pull away from the Mavericks. Luka Doncic was desperately in search of his side kick as nobody wanted to help him. The Rockets three point shooting was on fire in the the quarter as they were able to make 14 of 31 from behind the arc.
The Mavericks simply ran out gas as they needed to make a stop at the gas station to recharge but there’s none in space as the Rockets continued to put pressure in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were leading the Mavericks 109-89 with 9:45 left in the quarter as the Mavericks desperately were needing to find a spark on offense while also generating some stops on defense. Rick Carlisle would call a timeout with 8:55 left in the game as they could use fuel the Rockets were using in this game. Everything was going wrong for the Mavericks as they couldn’t get shots to go in and their defense was failing massively. The Rockets decided to save their best performance for this one as they were finding everything on the court. The Rockets just needed to remain in the drivers seat while draining out the clock to ultimately seal this one. The timeout didn’t work for the Mavericks as they were trading baskets with the Rockets, that’s something you can’t do at this stage of the game which resulted in another timeout from Rick Carlisle with 7:42 left in the game. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks offense continued to fall apart as this game gets far out of reach. DeMarcus Cousins continued his outstanding performance by connecting on a dunk to give him 28 points in the game. As the game continued to get out of reach, both teams started to empty the bench as the final minutes approached in the game.
This team looked like they were exhausted and didn’t want to play in a back-to-back as they struggled to get things going out the gate. The Rockets looked like they had a mission to go to “Planet Victory” as they came out firing on all cylinders. The Mavericks simply can’t rely on Luka Doncic all the time to carry the team when one of their key players is out. The Rockets took advantage of the Mavericks miscues and were able get things going for them.
In the end, it was the Houston Rockets claiming victory over their rival by defeating the Dallas Mavericks 133-108. The Mavericks record dropped to 8-8 on the season as they saw their two game winning streak snapped. Luka Doncic finished with 26 points and 5 rebounds as he tried to carry the Mavericks to victory but wasn’t enough. The Rockets had big performances from DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon by scoring 61 points combined.
The Mavericks will continue to stay in Dallas as they will host the Denver Nuggets on Monday at the American Airlines Center.