The Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets will play each other tonight at the American Airlines Center. This is exciting for multiple reasons. For starters, anytime the Mavs and Rockets have gotten together lately, the games have been great entertainment. There’s nothing like old fashioned sports hate, and these two teams have a lot of that for each other.
Also, I’ll be at the game and live tweeting from my Twitter account (@amirchandani41). Plus, I’ll write up a piece after the game with my observations. This is something we hope to do more in the future, and we hope you enjoy our coverage. But for now, let’s go through a few things you need to know about the matchup:
1. Mavs need to come out swinging: The Mavs were awful last night against Oklahoma City, and probably deserved to lose. Dallas came out flat on offense, and couldn’t get anything going for most of the game. They looked lethargic from the start, and that can’t happen against the Rockets. The Mavs need to get off to a good offensive start and set the tone for the game, otherwise they’ll be run out of their own gym.
2. Rondo vs. Harden: I’m expecting to see a heavy dose of Rajon Rondo checking James Harden. Rondo might be a step slower from trying to slow down Russell Westbrook last night, but I think his intensity will still be high considering this is the Houston Rockets. Harden has been in the MVP conversation for most of the season along with Stephen Curry, and his numbers have been even better as of late with Dwight Howard being out due to injury. If the Mavs want any chance of winning their first game against the Rockets this year, Rondo is going to have to do everything he can to contain Harden.
3. The Mavs need this: Dallas and Houston aren’t separated by much in the standings. The chances of a first round playoff series with these two teams in the 4-5 matchup is very possible (I’m not prepared for the amount anxiety that would cause me). The problem is, Dallas has dropped both games against Houston this season in excruciating fashion. It doesn’t help that in all four match ups against Houston, Dallas will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back (seriously, schedule makers?). But this is the first matchup that Dallas is playing at home, and even though they played the Thunder last night, they need this game badly.
4. How good are these teams: It is really hard to answer this question. Harden is playing out of his mind, but other than him, the Rockets really don’t have much without Howard? The Mavs were a mixed bag before the All-Star break, and were banged up. But with Rondo, Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler healthy again I think they’ll look a lot better. The key for Dallas is to finally be able to figure out their offense with Rondo in the mix, which I think is something we’re going to start to see now that the All-Star break is over. Whatever the case, I expect we’ll learn a lot more about these two teams tonight.
5. I love this rivalry: The Mavs vs. Spurs rivalry will always hold a special place in my heart. Yes, the fan bases didn’t like each other, but there always seemed to a mutual respect between the two franchises. That doesn’t seem like the case here. From Howard picking Houston over Dallas, to the Chandler Parsons situation over the summer, to Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey’s jabs at each other, to the Mavs being able to trade for Rondo, to both teams being interested in Josh Smith there has been a lot of recent history with these two. Dallas doesn’t like Houston, and Houston doesn’t like Dallas. And that’s why tonight will be incredibly fun.