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Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks game preview

Houston is looking for win number eight in a row.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a strong showing against the Philadelphia 76ers that extended their winning streak to a league-leading seven games, the Houston Rockets head on the road to face a Dallas Mavericks team that is up 2-1 in the season series but would probably rather lose.

Having lost four straight and nine of their last ten, Dallas arguably has more reason to tank than any team in the league, as they only keep their first-round pick if they find a way into the top five (otherwise it conveys to Atlanta as part of the infamous Young-Doncic swap).

Currently, Dallas has the seventh worst record in the league at 27-38, giving them a 29 percent chance of keeping their pick. If Dallas drops below the 27-40 Memphis Grizzlies, their odds of keeping their pick increases to 37 percent, and if they somehow manage to “catch” the 22-44 Atlanta, their odds increase to 44 percent.

Keeping that pick is vital for Dallas’ future outlook, as Luka Doncic’s rise mixed with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis likely means they’ll be too talented in future years to pick high in the lottery, making this their only chance to inject young talent and complete their young core.

As for the game, very little of the Mavericks’ rotation still stands from their wins over the Rockets early in the season, as arguably five of the team’s top six players have been shipped out-of-town (Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr, and Wesley Matthews) or lost for the season (J.J. Barea). But the Rockets will be in for a tough night if they don’t manage to slow down Doncic (20.7 points and 7 assists per game vs the Rockets this season), Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.5 points per game in Dallas) or the pesky Jalen Brunson (13.5 points per game in his last two against the Rockets).

Regardless, this is possibly (probably) Nowitzki’s final matchup against his in-state rival after 21 years of being one of their biggest pains in the butt. The one consolation prize from these tanking Mavs is that fans get to watch far more Nowitzki than if Dallas was still chasing the eight-seed, as the legend inches closer and closer to passing Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the all-time scoring list.

A win would put a full game of separation between the Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the third seed, and bring them within 2.5 games of the second-seeded Denver Nuggets.

Oh, and James Harden is expected to be active after x-rays on his wrist turned up negative.

Tip-off is at 6 pm CT