Note from AK: Thanks to Patrick for filling in on the preview. Great insight.
While the Dream Shake's most hated team has been getting most of the attention over the last few days because of the departure of their incredibly tenured coach, the Rockets face off tonight against perhaps Houston's second most hated team.
In addition to this bitter rivalry, tonight is the matchup of the two teams in the Western Conference in the forefront of the Carmelo Anthony rumors (not including the Lakers). These two teams, who are reportedly both willing to go after Anthony without the promise of an extension, will do battle tonight.
Two teams coming off of days of rest, this game should be one characterized by sharp offensive sets and impeccable defensive rotations. Given how the Rockets season has gone, I think it's fair to assume that it will be about the opposite.
Last time these teams met up, the Rockets employed their classic "fall way behind and then slowly tease your fans with a comeback, only to lose" strategy. The Rockets managed to limit the injured Dirk Nowitzki, but unsurprisingly the 7'1" almost-Rocket, Tyson Chandler, burned the Rockets for 21 and 15.
Matchups after the jump!
PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Jason Kidd
Kyle Lowry and Jason Kidd is a matchup of two surprisingly similar point guards. Both are pass-first guards, strong rebounders, improved shooters in recent years, and extremely smart.
Jason Kidd has been shockingly inefficient this year, but is still extremely valuable because of his ability to run the offense and rebound like a big man. Lowry, is probably a better defender and a better operator in transition, but is not as good of a passer or rebounder as Kidd.
SG: Kevin Martin vs. DeShawn Stevenson
Ok, Stevenson plays between five and ten minutes per half and is really a placeholder for Jason Terry, but he starts nonetheless. Comparing him with Martin is really no comparison.
Martin is second in the league in scoring per minute. DeShawn Stevenson is shooting in the 40's for the first time in four years. Martin leads the league in free throw makes. DeShawn is among the league leaders in trash talking.
You get the picture.
SF: Shane Battier vs. Peja Stojakovic
Another placeholder for the Mavericks, Stojakovic starts and just tries to tread water until Shawn Marion enters the game. Once again, it's an unfair comparison, but about the only advantage Stojakovic has over Battier is the money he's made this year.
PF: Luis Scola vs. Dirk Nowitzki
These guys will likely not be guarding each other (Hayes will probably be on Dirk with Scola on Chandler), but if they do, things could get interesting. Am I the only one who would expect at least one moment where both of them flop simultaneously and hit the deck?
Flopping aside, while Scola's been very strong for the Rockets this year, he is no Dirk. Dirk has played extremely well this year when healthy, and should dominate the Rockets who have nobody with enough length to challenge his above-the-head jumper.
C: Chuck Hayes vs. Tyson Chandler
One center is 7'1". One center is 6'6". How many years is it going to take before the Rockets are the ones with the tall center?
Despite his limited height, Chuck Hayes is an all-around badass. He defends like few can, rebounds with positioning and strength, and is among the league's best passers from the pivot. Is he better than Chandler, who is having a career year? No, but he is closer than you think.
Mavericks: JJ Barea, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Ian Mahinmi, Brian Cardinal (!), Brendan Haywood
Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Terrence Williams (just kidding), Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson, and Brad Miller
Edge: Considering the Mavericks second unit could likely beat our starters, I'm not going to even compare them to our bench.
Mavericks: Caron Butler out, Rodrigue Beaubois out (coming back later this week perhaps)
Rockets: Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady out (ok maybe not, but it's fitting that they'd be together)
Prediction: Rockets need this one badly, but they fall in the end.