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Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

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The Rockets head to Dallas to start life after the All-Star break.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hello Dream Shakers! It's been far too long. I missed you guys.

I'm not going to talk about the trades because I'm sure you've seen the coverage that we've had about them. If you haven't, check it out. I'll wait.

The Dallas Mavericks are a team that won't go away. Houston had a late lead in both games against Dallas and both times Houston had to do clutch things to pull out wins. The Mavs always seem to play in close games, especially against division opponents. It's tempered them and made them a better team in those tight moments. Houston's gotten them twice at their own game, but that's not sustainable. You have to take a lead and then pull away from this team.

That's unlikely to happen tonight in Dallas, where the Mavericks have had Houston's number for years. The last time these teams met there the Rockets won despite blowing a late lead (what? Houston blowing a late lead? That happens?).

Speaking of blowing late leads, it's becoming more and more frustrating watching Houston stop doing things late in games. It turns into the Harden show. People who don't watch the Rockets will say "James Harden hero ball lol" but in reality Harden's getting zero help from everyone else. He's trying to facilitate, but no one else is stepping up.

Last night, Dallas lost in Oklahoma City to a Thunder team and crowd that were ready for the stretch run. The Mavs' starters played between 29-36 minutes, so they weren't overworked.

Tip off is at 7:30 p.m. CST.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Rajon Rondo

Rondo is a great point guard. I don't need to remind you. The only weakness in his game is shooting, but if you ignore him he's liable to drive and beat you in the paint with runners, layups, or lobs to Chandler.

But he's garbage when compared to THE NBA'S MOST SKILLED PLAYER PATRICK BEVERLEY!!!

PBev most skilled

Hey, Pat, if you could make some of those threes in actual games, we'd sure appreciate that.

Advantage: Mavericks

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Monta Ellis

Harden was shut down by Rondo in the last game. If Houston can get him switched onto Ellis or Parsons, he'll be able to create more for himself and his teammates. But if he creates for them, he'll need them to knock down shots or make the right pass.

My fear at this point is that we'll get to the playoffs, Harden will work his tail off and have no help, and everyone will say "You can't win with Harden" despite it not being his fault that no one on the team can hit open shots.

As always, Ellis will do Ellis things and make at least 3 shots that make you call bullshit.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Chandler Parsons

Parsons showed out last time against Houston after throwing up a dud the first time these teams met. He'll likely be in attack mode just like the rest of the Mavs will be when they see Houston's lack of size down low.

Just like with Beverley, I'm hopeful that the break gave Ariza the rest that we've been hoping for him to get. If not, Brewer could come in and do work here too. Brewer was a big reason for Dallas' 24 turnovers last game, so expect him to get plenty of run tonight.

Advantage: Mavericks

Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki can shoot really well.

The Rockets do poorly against bigs who can shoot really well.

#HotTakes

Advantage: Mavericks

Center: Joey Dorsey vs. Tyson Chandler

It's very possible that Dwight Howard will miss all four games against the Mavs this year. So far, Houston has gritted their teeth and withstood the inevitable onslaught of Tyson Chandler (15 rebounds last time), while somehow coming up with enough interior defense to pull out clutch wins.

Advantage: Mavericks

Bench

Rockets: Propeller Plane, Josh SmithCorey BrewerKostas Papanikolaou, Terrence Jones

Mavericks: Al-Farouq AminuRichard JeffersonJ.J. BareaDevin Harris, Charlie Villanueva, Bernard James

Advantage: Even

Prediction: Rockets blow late lead. Easiest prediction ever.

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