Rockets - Mavericks Game Preview: Dwight Howard returns to Dallas to face Dirk, Mark Cuban

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Rockets travel to Dallas on the second leg of a back to back to play their inter-state rival Dallas Mavericks on ESPN at 8:30 CT.

For some reason, every year AK forgets to pay his brain-bill and agrees to let me write the Rockets - Mavericks preview (typical Texas Tech "med-student", right?). This year is different though, he gave me a stipulation that I had to meet if I wanted this preview. The stipulation: You have to say at least one mean thing about Dirk in the preview. Now if you don't know already, I'm a huge Dallas Mavericks fan, so for me to do this goes against every one of my core values, will undoubtedly be viewed as heresy in the Mavericks community, and will probably change the course of my life for the worse. Here we go I guess..

I didn't know he was that ugly. I thought he was a pretty good lookin fella when he had hair, but, oh my goodness, did that bring out all his bad features or what! He's going to be single all the rest of his life - Don Nelson on Dirk's crew cut.

Just look at this:

Dirk_and_nash_blond_mmb_medium

And this:

Mark-cuban-explains-why-he-wont-trade-dirk-nowitzki

Oh! And this:

Tumblr_ltxwct52kf1qm9rypo1_1280_medium

Sorry, that must've been hard to go through. Here's something to soothe the pain:

Patrick Beverley stuffs Dirk Nowitzki (via clutchfansDOTnet)

There's no way I can keep this up, so I'm stopping here. I hope this was good enough.

Tip-off is at 8:30 PM CT on ESPN

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Jose Calderon

Patrick Beverley has only 2 games where he's made more than 1 3 point shot this season. Yikes. Patrick has yet to figure himself out (a lot of this has to do with injury) and the Mavericks are the perfect team to play for him to get back on track. Being guarded by Jose Calderon should make any point guard's eyes light with fire, especially one who has been struggling all season. Expect Beverley to be aggressive and take advantage of Calderon's weaknesses on defense. If there's a better game to get his season back on track I can't think of one. Beverley just needs to take advantage.

After last year's Darren Collison shitshow, Jose Calderon being signed in the offseason was like Christmas coming early for Rick Carlisle. Jose can actually make a pass into the post, he prefers to run the offense, and he will knockdown his 3s, all three things Collison struggled with last season. I've also never seen Rick excessively yell or call out Calderon like he did with Darren. Jose might not be the best point guard out there, but he's a great fit in the Mavericks system, because he does what they need and ask him to do and nothing more, making him the perfect point guard for Carlisle's offense.

Advantage: Jose Calderon

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis

This is the awkward moment in the preview where I say that Monta Ellis has easily been a top-3 shooting guard this season and everyone responds with mean things that will further deteriorate my life as if it hasn't been deteriorated enough. All I ask for is a chance to prove my point. Wait, I don't get a chance? Fine, I won't mention these stats:

1. Monta Ellis drives the second most per game in the league and averages the 5th highest points per 48 minutes on drives (given that a player has driven more than 10 times this season)

2.  He's second in the league in points via drives

3. He's in the top 3rd in the league in eFG% on pull-up shots for players who take 4+ per game.

Monta is reinventing himself this season and it's providing results, let's see if it keeps up throughout the season.

James Harden is still James Harden though, despite his awful defense he's the undisputed best SG in the league. Expect him to be in attack mode the whole game, and the Mavericks really don't have an answer for him.

Advantage: James Harden (but it's closer than you think)

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Shawn Marion

Chandler Parsons has been playing great basketball lately, averaging over 20 points in his last 5 games. He has yet to find his shot however, shooting abysmally in non-corner 3 shots. Marion poses an interesting defensive matchup due to his size, length, and strength. He's still one of the better on ball defenders in the league so Chandler needs to work on getting his shots via off-ball movement.

Not much has changed for Marion on offense, he still posts up, he still does those ugly floaters that somehow go in, and he is still great at cutting off the ball. One thing Marion has gotten better at is shooting 3s, becoming reliable when the defense sags off and leaves him open. Expect Marion to fire at least 2 threes this game.

Advantage: Chandler Parsons

Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Dirk Nowitzki

I could tell you Dirk is better than Terrence Jones in thousands of ways. So to not waste your time by telling something you already know, I'll just move on.

Advantage: Dirk Nowitzki

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Samuel Dalembert

If you haven't read Zach Lowe's recent article about the Rockets then you can read it here:

It says what I would say for the most part, that Dwight is making a big impact for the Rockets, but it could be better. If I were to add anything it's that Dwight is getting way too many post ups and needs be involved in more pick and rolls where he's a more effective offensive player.

Remember when people thought that Dalembert was the answer at center for the Rockets? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Now he's the Maverick's answer at center.

Advantage: Dwight Howard

Bench:

Rockets: Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik (?), and D-Mo

Mavericks: Dejuan Blair, Vince Carter, Gal Mekel, Jae Crowder, and Shane Larkin

Advantage: Rockets

Prediction: Rockets take care of the Mavericks 116 - 104

Opposing BlogMavs Moneyball

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