After claiming the second seed in the murderous Western Conference, the Rockets are matched up with a familiar foe. They will open their title run against Southwest Division mates, the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets took the season series, winning three of the four games including both home games.
The series was close though, with three of the games being decided by single digits.
Even with a close regular season series and all of the injury woes that the Rockets are dealing with, there seems to be a national consensus that the Rockets will get by the Mavericks:
Stand Out Stat: The Rockets scored the second most fast break points this season, racing their way to a healthy 18.7 fast break points per game. The Mavericks on the other hand, allowed the second most fast break points in the league. Lackluster transition defense allowed Dallas opponents to score 15.9 fast break points a game, better only than the Sacramento Kings. If the Rockets can get out and run, it will alleviate the need for James Harden to produce points every time they are in the half court running their sets.
Stand out Stat #2: NBA.com had a cool preview of the series looking through the lens of some SportVU stats. Not surprisingly, Harden finished third in the league in drives to the basket this season (853). The Rockets scored 1.36 points per possession on plays where Harden had a drive, tops in the league among players with at least 100 drives. Couple that with Tyson Chandler not being the elite rim-protector he once was (allowed 4.8 FG made per game at the rim on 50.9% shooting at the rim this season) and the Rockets could find some more easy baskets.
Prediction: Rockets in 6.
* Five of the six analysts at Yahoo.com predicted the Rockets would defeat the Mavericks.
^ Ken Berger of CBS Sports predicts the Rockets in 5. The other 4 CBS Sports analysts have the Rockets winning in 7 games.