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Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

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The Rockets look to sweep the home-and-home series as they play their home opener against the Dallas Mavericks.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets stunned us by winning in Dallas. Sure, Dirk didn't play, but every team gets amped for its first home game. Ask the Lakers.

For Houston, a win is a win is a win. Now, the Rockets must open their home court and look to move to 2-1 and (more importantly) 2-0 in the Southwest Division. You can say that winning this home-and-home would be a stroke of luck, but over the course of 82 games every team gets lucky.

Maybe you're like a lot of fans and ask "Why do division wins matter? It's not like the NFL where clobbering your division basically means a guaranteed home court first round." And while that's true, the divisional games for Houston have a ton of significance.

Every team in the division is gunning for the playoffs. San Antonio is going no matter what, and are probably a top 2-3 seed. Memphis has a wide range for me. I could see them finishing fourth in the West or missing out completely on the playoffs. Neither would surprise me. Dallas and Houston are probably fighting for the 5-8 seeds, and New Orleans has dreams of getting back to the dance.

While the divisional record itself likely won't come into effect, the tiebreaker between two teams very well might. You are only guaranteed to face four teams four times every year, and that's your divisional opponents. The other ten teams in the conference rotate so you play some four times and some three times. If you face a team three times and they get two home games to your one and both teams hold serve? Tough luck, but there's not much you can do about it.

The Rockets have been given a gift: a road win at a divisional opponent they will undoubtedly be jockeying with in April. Losing tonight would waste that gift. Let's see if they take advantage and go for the jugular.

Prediction: Mavs win a tight one, 108-105.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT.

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