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Game 17 Preview: Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks

I hate back-to-backs. They're bad enough when you're playing bad teams. Games that would have been winnable suddenly become traps. Add on having to take the second game on the road, and it gets worse. Then realize it's against a division opponent that's hotter than a wasabi pepper, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Now, onto the Mavericks. As much as it pains me to say it, they're a damn fine basketball team. Damn fine. At 12-4, they're definitely playoff bound, and they've fixed some of their biggest problems.

For years, the scouting report on the Mavs was the same: they're soft, and they have to play help defense, which made getting to the rim a cinch. Not anymore, though. Tyson Chandler has become a monster, and it helps that he's in a contract year. Hopefully for the sake of the Rockets, he'll pull a Dampier. Yes, "Dampier" is now a word. Defined by Merriam-Webster as "to play hard during a contract year, only to get a fat contract and check out mentally and physically until the next contract year." As in, "I thought Kyle Lowry was pulling a Dampier, but now it seems like the injury was bugging him more than I thought."

And you can't talk about the Mavs without talking about Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki. Let's start with the German.

Dirk is an unbelievable shooter. Superb. Fantastic. Otherworldly. But the dude does not get fouled as much as the referees would have you believe. No player (with the possible exception of Kobe Bryant) gets more benefit of the doubt than the Deutschman. If he misses a jump shot, he must have been fouled. Heaven forbid he actually missed a tough jumper with a hand in his face. And I still fume over the fact that when he ran his arm into Carl Landry's teeth, he got free throws out of it. Watch Landry, he doesn't move. Absolutely should have been a charge.

(via clutchfansDOTnet)

And how much of a badass is Landry? He's so nonchalant about it, like "Hey, sub me out. I just need some water. I'll be back in a second."

Now for Mark Cuban. I like him. He's a great owner, and he took a team from the bottom of the conference to the elite in a few short seasons. He gives a crap and is willing to spend money. That being said, the guy is a tool. When he yelled at David Stern, he ensured that the Dallas Mavericks won't ever win a championship while he is the owner. The beard doesn't take kindly to threats. Not kindly at all.




PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Jason Kidd:

The Rockets face yet another Team USA point guard. Kidd is still a do-everything point guard, and his passing is as sharp as it's ever been. 8/10/4 is great from a guy who's 37 years old.

Hopefully, Lowry can play like that, with the same consistency some day. He's getting out of this early rut, for sure, and it's good to see that the Rockets didn't waste $24 million on the guy.

Advantage: Mavs

SG: Kevin Martin vs. DeShawn Stevenson

It's like Jay-Z vs. Soulja Boy

Advantage: Rockets

SF: Shane Battier vs. Caron Butler

Butler is a trick-or-treat kind of player. You never know what you'll get. He's athletic, he's streaky, and he plays with intensity (at times). Outside of his offense he contributes very little to the Mavericks, and is just another player who was brought in to be the Robin to Dirk's Batman, only to fail.

Shane played his best game of the year yesterday, so he gets a bump, but that only makes this even. I told you Shane looked more aggressive in the preseason. Think he realizes it's a contract year now? I was waiting for him to figure it out.

Advantage: Even

PF: Luis Scola vs. Dirk Nowitzki:

Luis has been absent, Dirk has been present. Who would you rather have?

Dirk's even been getting on the boards and playing some defense recently. Maybe he knows that he's 32, and eventually he's going to get injured. Please?

Advantage: Mavs

C: Chuck Hayes vs. Tyson Chandler:

10/9 with a couple of blocks, plus a bunch of altered shots? I'll take that all day from my center, although Yao can score more. In the NBA, you only need a decent center to contend, and the Mavs have found one who's playing his best ball right now. And, he's young. Scary.

Chuck Hayes has no chance in this matchup. Hopefully, Hill isn't really injured and can play. We'll need him.

Advantage: Mavs



Mavs: JJ Barea (gnat), Jason Terry (Rocket killer), Shawn Marion (surprising Rocket killer), Brian Cardinal (how is he still in the NBA?), Brendan Haywood (great backup center). They've got a damn fine bench in Dallas.

Rockets: Ish Smith, Courtney Lee, Brad Miller, Jordan Hill (?), Jared Jeffries, Chase Budinger

Advantage: Mavs


Mavs: Roddy Beaubois out

Rockets: Brooks out, Yao out, Hill (?)

Prediction: Another day, another loss

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