Preview: Rockets (27-23) at Mavericks (28-22)
Preview: Rockets (27-23) at Mavericks (28-22)
Earl K. Sneed previews the Dallas Mavericks' matchup against the Houston Rockets Tuesday night as the defending champions try to complete the split home-and-home series with back-to-back wins.
DALLAS -- There’s very little prep work to do for the Dallas Mavericks heading into Tuesday night’s matchup against the Houston Rockets.
That’s because the Mavericks (28-22) became very familiar with their Southwest Division foe while scratching and clawing to Saturday night’s 101-99 overtime win in Houston to further separate the two squads in the standings.
Entering Tuesday night, the Mavs sit at No. 5 in the Western Conference, one game ahead of Houston, which is in a three-way tie with Utah in the seventh slot and Denver in ninth. Now, the Mavericks will try to create even more distance between themselves and the Rockets (27-23) as the defending champions return to Dallas for the back end of their home-and-home series.
"There's familiarity because you just played them, on the one hand. On the other hand, they're gonna make adjustments and we're gonna have to make some adjustments as well," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle explained. "There are some things that we've gotta do better, obviously, from our perspective. And, look, it's two teams that are very close in the standings, too. So, the intensity of the game is gonna be there and right now we're in ramp-it-up mode. Every game is critical. Every day we step in the gym has meaning. And we've gotta approach it that way."
“A home-and-home is always fun for me, because if you have success against a team then you can come back the next night and hopefully duplicate it,” reserve guard Jason Terry added. “And there’s really no scouting report, because you’ve already done all that the first game.”
Terry starred late in the first meeting as the Mavs needed every bit of the sharpshooter’s 24 points off the bench, including the go-ahead basket in the extra period, to defeat the Rockets for a fifth straight time.
“Really, JET [Terry] made it happen for us,” leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki said despite posting 31 points himself to pass Charles Barkley for 19th on the all-time scoring list. “They were really hugging me on the screen-and-roll and he came off a couple of times and hit tough shots. He was really clutch for us.”
Still, Nowitzki also had to take out time to briefly reflect on his own personal milestone, passing his childhood idol with a vintage scoring outburst.
“That’s obviously great. Charles was always kind of my hero. … It’s great to know. It’s been a great ride. Obviously, topped it off last year with the championship and all these things are gonna be great in a couple of years when I look back at my career,” Nowitzki modestly said after suffering a cut over his right eye in the win that required four stitches.
Meanwhile, Carlisle credited the victory to a total team effort, making up for the absences of starting center Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) and newcomer Delonte West (fractured right ring finger). And with both Haywood's and West's statuses listed as questionable after going through light drills in Monday's practice, the short-handed Mavericks will try to build off the momentum of the big road win following back-to-back losses by double digits.
“Biggest win of the year for us,” Carlisle concluded. “We were fighting back all night until the end of regulation, and then they made a couple of plays, we made a couple of mistakes, but the guys kept hanging in. So, that’s what it’s about.”
He added: “We’ve got a couple of days now to regroup. We’ve got these guys again and these are big games, because we’re close to these guys in the standings and everything is congested. One win or loss and you can move up or down three spots.”
The Mavs may also have the opportunity to feast on a Rockets team on tired legs and suffering from injuries.
Behind Patrick Patterson's career-high 24 points, the Rockets survived the lowly Sacramento Kings again in overtime, holding on for a 113-106 victory. But the Rockets could be without starting point guard Goran Dragic, who led all five starters in double figures against Dallas with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 5-of-7 from three, after he left the court with assistance late in the extra period due to an ankle injury.
Dragic would later call the injury a "minor sprain" after X-rays came back negative. But it still could prove pivotal as the Mavericks look for back-to-back wins before heading to Florida for a two-game road trip against Miami and Orlando.
Note: Tuesday night, the Mavs again face off with the Rockets in the second game of the home-and-home series. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).