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Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

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NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight marks the last meeting between the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets. Back in 2009 these teams wrapped up their season series by December 31. Tonight means they accomplished that feat four days earlier in the calendar.

Additionally, Houston has a chance to sweep the Mavs for the first time since the 1997-98 season. Think about that for a second. Tim Duncan was a rookie.

Anyway, despite all of the struggles Dallas has had and all of their injuries, they sit just 5 games out of the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. They’re 9-22 and have a 3-14 record on the road after sweeping a double against the Blazers and Clippers.

And yet, here they are. Dirk is back and playing shooting well. His minutes restriction should be lifted soon. Harrison Barnes isn’t a superstar, but he’s used this time to hone the art of getting his own shot, especially in isolation. Dorian Finney-Smith has been a nice surprise. Wesley Matthews is still a pest, and Deron Williams has turned back the clock and has scored 23 or more points in 3 of their last 4 contests. Justin Anderson has shown some flashes that he doesn’t belong in the doghouse any longer.

The Mavs are going to make a push for the playoffs. Houston was incredibly lucky to get all four games before the new year and have a chance to get these out of the way before Dallas tries to go on a tear.

No Rocket played more than 30 minutes last night, while Dallas had four such players in their loss last night to New Orleans. With Dallas likely missing Andrew Bogut (Rocket killer J.J. Barea is also out), Houston need to be physical and own the interior. They should attack and likewise prevent easy penetration for Dallas.

Meanwhile, Dallas will slow the game down (they’re dead last in pace and top 10 in turnover ratio). Houston will obviously attempt to run the Mavs off the court. If they can do that, they should get their first sweep over Dallas in this millennium.

Let’s go with a video here too. The Mavs would win this series because Mark Cuban complained and thus the officiating changed (Jeff Van Gundy has been firm on that statement). But the Rockets won the first two games in Dallas, including this back-and-forth contest in the second game. While everyone remembers the Tracy McGrady dunk over Shawn Bradley, here was the winner.

Tip-off is at 7:30pm CT.