Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

It went in. - Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets and Mavericks take part in a battle of unbeatens in Houston tonight.

I don't hate Mark Cuban.

Okay, I do. But I still respect the guy.

Or, I did. But then he says stuff like this.

Still, it's hard not to appreciate what Cuban has done for the Mavericks. Since buying the team, Cuban has taken a perennial doormat and taken them to the Finals twice. Ignoring the fact that Cuban has absolutely screwed the pooch the last two years, you have to see the success.

A lot of Rockets fans praise Les Alexander for being hands-off. Alexander isn't really removed from team decisions (everything still runs through him, especially trades), but Alexander leaves the day-to-day operations to Tad Brown, Daryl Morey, and the rest of the hard workers that inhabit the Toyota Center. Cuban is almost the complete opposite.

He's very much hands-on. He not only wants to make final decisions, he wants to make the original decision. He sits in the front row or behind the bench for almost every game, including those on the road. He gets into feuds with players, he tweets, he cheers, he complains to refs, and he mingles with his team whenever he can.

And if he was the owner of the Rockets, we would all love him. Most fans want an owner who cares. Well, you can accuse Cuban of many things (insider trading, for instance), but you can never say he doesn't care about the Mavericks. Most fans want their owners to make moves when things go south. Cuban has done that time and time again, including this summer when he panic-signed signed Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. All-in-all, he's what most fans want. I'm sure some Texans fans are nodding their heads. This guy is.

The only thing Cuban does that grinds my gears is his repeated use of the word "culture" to describe how the Mavericks operate. In this blog post alone, he uses the word 11 times. Cuban has always been cocky, but continually stating that players succeed in "our culture" betrays an arrogance even more far-flung than average. He's saying that his team is better than yours, and he knows it.

But then again, Dwight Howard made a mistake. And the Mavs are better off without him. But they would have loved to have him. Okay, buddy.

Anyway, back to the Rockets.

Well that was ugly. If you had said that both teams would score under 100 points, I would have thought the Rockets had gotten off to an 0-1 start. This team HAD to score last year to win games. This iteration of the Rockets clearly doesn't.

The quotation that really sums up the evening came from Head Coach Kevin McHale. He said that the game was like a trip to the dentist. He's right. That game was painful for long stretches.

BUT, McHale also qualified that with this (emphasis mine):

We did not play the way we normally play. We had three on ones where we didn't pass the ball. We played very unlike ourselves. We weren't getting out running. The ball was sticky. Everybody was trying to come back and get the ball. We've got a lot of stuff we have to clean up on. If we had played this way for a month, I would be really concerned. This is the first time we've played like this since the first practice.

Tip off is at 7pm CST.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Jose Calderon

Bummer for Beverley to get early in his first career start. Whether you're a Lin supporter or not, you can't derive happiness from an injury to a person whose livelihood is so dependent on his health.

The good news is Bev isn't seriously injured and will likely be ready to go tonight. But if he doesn't, we all know what Lin can do. He'll be especially important against the soft underbelly of the Mavericks interior defense.

Calderon lit up the Rockets in the preseason, mostly against Lin. He'll get another chance tonight.

Advantage: Mavericks

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis

The bane of Rockets fans' existence, Ellis ironically continues to destroy the poster-boy of advanced statistical analysis with his inefficient game. Ellis scored 32 and dished out 8 assists on 11-17 shooting against the Hawks, getting to the line 8 times. The 7 turnovers are the only negative from that game for Ellis and the Mavs.

Harden gets the soft advantage here because of Ellis' ability to kill the Rockets and the fact that he's injured. Hopefully he's back to 100% for tonight, but that's asking a lot.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Shawn Marion

Marion's Phoenix form should be what Parsons strives for in his career. Marion did it all and was an athletic whirling dervish that defended and slashed for the Suns when they were running and gunning. He's got that ugly shot, but it seems to go in plenty. And his floater is criminally underrated. He puts up at least two a game, and he never misses them.

Advantage: Even

Power Forward: Dwight Howard vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Really, this matchup comes down to which team gets the ball to their star the most. Nowitzki can give any defender fits. The same could be said of Howard. Really, whichever player impacts the game more will probably be the deciding factor in this game.

Advantage: Even

Center: Omer Asik vs. Samuel Dalembert

Dalembert played 27 minutes and 4/9. He only blocked a single shot and only committed one foul. This Mavericks team is requiring a lot from Dalembert, and it will be interesting to see how much he can give them over the course of an 82 game season.

Despite being the secondary big, Asik still had a meaningful impact against the Bobcats. Now, the Rockets need him to be a bit more solid around the rim on offense and to get a putback dunk every now and again.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench

Rockets: Jeremy Lin, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Aaron Brooks

Mavs: Vince Carter, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Gal Mekel, Jae Crowder

Advantage: Mavericks

Prediction: Ellis hits another game-winner. Mavs win 111-109.

Mavericks vs Rockets coverage

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