Houston Rockets Down Mavericks at Home, 113-105

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets extend their chances at 82-0 for one more day as they staved off Dirk and Monta in the Toyota Center

Tonight the Rockets remain among the ranks of the undefeated after downing the revamped Dallas squad on a historic night as it was the first NBA game ever to feature two players from Israel (Omri Casspi/Gal Mekel).

In a game that, at first, did not seem like it was going to be close, the Mavericks made several valiant attempts to make Rockets fans sweat before they ran out of time. Jae Crowder nailed a flurry of 3 pointers late to cut the deficit to 5 in the closing seconds of the 4th, but Houston was able to hit their free throws to preserve the victory.

Overall Impressions

Foul trouble and turnovers largely defined the contours of the evening, while James Harden's 34 points on 17 shots highlighted a Rockets outing that had some outstanding flashes of brilliance along with several clear signs that this squad is not quite there yet.

To me, this game was a pretty good opportunity to check our team's collective temperature.  While Dallas isn't going to be a phenomenal team in the West by any stretch of the imagination, they are not a team you can sleep on.  Carlisle led teams with the likes of Dirk and Monta surrounded by older vets like Marion, Carter, and Dalembert can give a lot of teams a run for their money on any given night.

Dallas did a good job of forcing us into uncomfortable positions in the second and third quarter by slowing down the game and switching to their match-up zone defense, which stifled Houston's dribble penetration for a few stretches and got Dallas in striking distance.

Our collective 22 turnovers were not helping.

After Dallas turned a 22 point Houston lead into an 11 point deficit by the half, the third quarter evolved into a perfect storm of fouls, timeouts, sideline reviews, and dead ball turnovers.  This breaking up of a ton of the 3rd quarter action made it difficult to get our offense going consistently.  Thankfully, Dallas' offense outside of Dirk (12 points in the period) was pretty horrid.  They shot 25% in the quarter compared to 33% for Houston.

Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I kind of want those 40 minutes of the game back - It was not very enjoyable to watch, outside of a few plays here and there.

The things that ultimately kept the Rockets ahead in this game were their domination of the boards (+11 at the half, +8 for the game) and timely three point shooting (11-29).  We'll talk about each in more detail below.

Let's dive into some of the storylines, shall we?

Impact of Patrick Beverley's Absence

Lin got the start as we learned of Beverley's abdominal tear, which really just meant a lot of minutes got shifted to Aaron Brooks, who played 23 minutes tonight.

While his size, as always, limited his defensive effectiveness against Gal Mekel, who had a very solid outing (11 points, 5/7 FG, 6 assists, 1 TO), he scored pretty well, leading the bench in scoring with 13 points.  This includes hitting a pivotal 3 pointer to push the lead up to 15 with 2 minutes left.  He didn't quite dazzle {link}, but he was a more than adequate substitute in most situations.

Although you always miss a defensive pest like Beverley, Jose Calderon had an absolutely awful game being guarded by Lin.  Calderon finished with zero points on 0-8 shooting in 25 minutes of play.

While Lin overall had a decent game with 14 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals, he turned the ball over 6 times.  Recklessness driving the ball and poor passing acted as a counterweight to his otherwise solid performance on the night.

Those turnovers have got to come down though as the season moves along, especially if he isn't connecting on more assists.

Dwight/Omer, Part Deux

This game did not give us a great opportunity to see them play together for long stretches as Asik picked up two fouls in the first minute of the contest.  In fact, Omer ended up only playing 15 minutes the entire game because every time he would come in he would pick up another foul and committed his 6th foul with 10 minutes left in the 4th.  Despite this, he racked up 12 rebounds and played quite well on the defensive end in the time he was on the floor.

Dwight and Omer collectively racked up 28 of Houston's 51 rebounds on the night.  Although Dwight also was relegated to the bench because of foul trouble for stretches, he made it clear (as I'm sure he will every game this season) that he monster in the paint.

Dwight dealt with some sub-par shooting for his standards (4 of 10 shooting) and had to deal with a 3rd quarter Hack-A-Dwight gambit by Carlisle which saw him miss 6 free throws in a row.

Bench Play

The coaching staff stuck with an 8 man rotation throughout the game with a few sprinkles of Ronnie Brewer here and there.  They scored 37 of the Rockets 113 points and had a wonderful outing from beyond the arc.

While the starters shot 4-16 (25%) from 3 point range (all 4 makes being Harden's), the bench shot 7-13 (53.8%).  Every time that Dallas looked as if they were about to storm right back into the game, either Omri, AB, or Cisco would drain a 3 pointer and restore a double digit lead.

Each of these 3 players also had at least 2 rebound and 2 assists and no one turned the ball over more than once.

Omri Casspi, in particular deserves a mention for his energetic play and excellent shooting.  He may be emerging as one of the most under-rated pick-ups the Rockets got this offseason.  Unfortunately, after a bad pass of his got intercepted, Casspi rolled his ankle trying to get back and defend the shot.  He looked like he was limping pretty badly, we can only hope its not too serious.  No word on his availability for tomorrow's game at the time of this writing.

The bench may have only barely outscored Harden collectively, but they deserve a shout out for their solid all-around play as the starting unit continues to gel with each other.

Concluding Thoughts

It is obviously still very early, so reading too much into any given game is unwise at this point, but based on what I have seen so far I can confidently say that this season is going to be an absolute joy to cover.

Dwight looks healthy, our offense looks just as deadly (if not more) than last year, our defense is significantly improved, and James Harden is...well...James Harden.

Now, the Rockets fly out to Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz in their first back-to-back of this very young NBA season.

Check out Mavs Moneyball for more game coverage

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