The Houston Rockets fell to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night 105-100, giving this installment of the I-45 rivalry to the Mavs. Dallas had six players score 10 or more points and led by as many as 15, but Houston made the game close and trailed by a single point in the final minute.
It was too little, too late.
The Rockets came into Wednesday's game against Dallas with a 21-18 record, 9.5 games out of first. They've been propelled by the strong play of new acquisition James Harden, the improving game of Jeremy Lin and the surprising production from Chandler Parsons.
They're currently in seventh place, but the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz are only half a game behind them. Houston has surprised the NBA by averaging a league-high 105.5 points per game. The only problem is that they allow 103.7 points per game, which is worst in the league.
This is somewhat misleading, as the high scoring on both sides of the ball is by design. Houston coach Kevin McHale employs an up-tempo style that seeks to outrun opponents.
Hollinger also has Houston ranked eighth in the NBA in offensive efficiency despite averaging the most points per game.
Dallas, meanwhile, has sputtered to a 16-23 record, good for 12th place (which is even worse than the downtrodden Lakers). Despite the strong play from O.J. Mayo (who was 3-of-14 on the night but still managed 18 points thanks to 12 free throws, as well as eight dimes), Dallas can't seem to find the recipe for consistent success.
Even after Dirk Nowitzki returned from his knee injury, the Mavs went 1-8 before winning their last three contests. However, those recent wins include a 21-point victory over the Memphis Grizzlies and a 15-point win over the talented Minnesota Timberwolves (albeit without Kevin Love on the court).
So, things could be looking up for the Mavericks, especially after owner Mark Cuban recently put the league on notice, saying, "We're letting everybody know that the 'Bank of Cuban' is open" (via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com). That's good news for a team on a four-game winning streak.
It was a discouraging loss for the Rockets, who have dropped their last five games. Let's go position by position and examine Houston's report card.