In the NCAA tournament, the motto is "survive and advance."
For the Rockets right now, the motto is just "survive."
The Rockets limp into the Toyota Center decimated by injuries. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are healthy yet can't seem to find a win. After blowing a fourth quarter lead to the Raptors and falling in overtime, the Mavericks headed to Phoenix and promptly gave up 123 points and 15 3-pointers to the Suns. So you know Dallas is hungry for a win.
The Rockets got destroyed in Indiana and then turned around and found some mojo in the Motor City. They will look to build upon that win despite the questionable statuses of Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Greg Smith, and Omer Asik. Patrick Beverley is certain to be out with a fractured hand.
The Rockets and Mavs have met twice this year, with the home team taking both games. In the first matchup in Houston, the Rockets controlled the game for most of its duration, but had to fight off a crazy rally by Jae Crowder to hold on for the win.
A few weeks later, they travelled to Dallas and should have won, blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead and extending the losing streak in Dallas. I'll also point out that both times the Rockets are scheduled to play in Dallas this year, they will be playing the second of a back-to-back. In neither the first game or the next one in January will the Mavericks have played the night before. So it's no wonder that the streak is likely to continue.
Mostly, it's the fact that I'm surrounded by obnoxious Mavericks fans all the time and can't stand them when they beat the Rockets. But if the NBA keeps scheduling games like that, I hope McHale takes a page out of Pop's playbook and sits everyone. Then a loss wouldn't sting as badly.
Finally, my brothers will be at this game. So if you see 17-year-old twins who are constantly looking up stats on their phones, that's probably them.
Jeremy Lin confirms he's playing tonight and he will start.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) December 23, 2013
James Harden says he will be out tonight due to sprained ankle. Expect Garcia to start in his place again.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) December 23, 2013
Tip off is at 7pm CST.
Point Guard: Aaron Brooks vs. Jose Calderon
Aaron Brooks has a history of beating the Mavs. However, he also has a history of not playing defense.
Calderon has only shot 25% against the Rockets in the first two meetings. I expect for that to change tonight.
And before the uproar starts, I know that Jeremy Lin is likely to play tonight. But I think he might come off the bench.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis
This one pains me, but because I have no idea where Harden will be (or if he'll even play), I have to give the advantage to Ellis.
He's a Rocket-killer and refuses to miss against us, even when the defense isn't giving him great looks.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Shawn Marion
Marion leads the Mavs in rebounding at 7.2 per game. He's shooting better against the Rockets than his average and is a cinch to win the "Ugh, giving up 60+ to Ellis and Dirk I understand, but if we had just shut down _______, we could have won this game" award.
Other candidates: Vince Carter, Calderon, and Jason Terry. Because always Jason Terry.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. Dirk Nowitzki
I mean, this won't be fair. If Jones can keep Nowitzki off the foul line, that will be a success. That will be difficult since every time Nowitzki misses, it seems like he gets a foul call. I realize that Mavs fans will say the same thing about Harden, so I'll leave it at that.
One more unpopular opinion: everyone falls all over themselves to compliment Dirk's one-legged fadeaway, but I have a problem with it. Dirk raises his knee when he does it. Now, it's hard enough to stop a 7-footer who's fading away, but it's another thing entirely when you have to contest the shot AND worry about his knee going into your crotch. No wonder no one ever tries to contest that shot. I think sticking the knee out should be illegal.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. DeJuan Blair
As Jason Friedman as pointed out, Howard has had his best games of the season when opponents don't send help. I'm confused as to why teams wouldn't, especially considering how poorly the Rockets have shot the three so far this season.
If I'm Rick Carlisle, I'm sending the house at him on every possession.
For the Rockets, they have to stick to cleaning up the boards. While Nowitzki won't attack the offensive glass much, Blair is a vacuum underneath and will need to be boxed out.
Rockets: Jeremy Lin, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Greg Smith (?)
Mavericks: Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, Vince Carter, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert
Prediction: Lack of depth kills the Rockets, Mavs win 112-98. If anyone asks why I'm predicting a loss, you haven't been paying attention the last couple of weeks.
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