Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
The Dallas Mavericks will take on the Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets for the third time this season and the second time in Houston on Sunday night.
Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs (26-32) lead the season series 2-0 coming into this weekend's showdown, but the James Harden-led Rockets (32-28) currently possess a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sunday's matchup carries a lot of weight however, as both teams will meet for the final time this season just three days later in Dallas.
Keep in mind the Mavericks have won nine straight games against the Rockets dating back to 2010.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for this weekend's pivotal Western Conference clash in Clutch City.
Where: Toyota Center in Houston
When: Sunday, March 3 at 7 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: NBA League Pass (paid subscription required)
Betting Line: TBA
No significant injuries to report.
Mavericks Player to Watch: O.J. Mayo, SG
First-year Maverick O.J. Mayo has been one of the few bright spots in Big D this season, leading the team in scoring, averaging over 17 points per game on better than 45 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from downtown.
But Mayo has been especially dominant against Houston this season. In two wins over the Rockets, the former Memphis Grizzlies star is averaging 29 points per game (his highest average against any team this season).
Mayo isn't just a scorer against Houston, though. He's racked up 14 rebounds and 11 assists over the course of the last two meetings between the two squads.
Rockets Player to Watch: Chandler Parsons, SF
Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons has developed nicely since being drafted out of Florida in 2011. Parsons is Houston's second-leading scorer this season, averaging close to 15 points per game on 47 percent shooting. But Parsons' play against Dallas has been even more impressive.
He's averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game against the Mavs in 2012-13, proving to be a difficult matchup for the 2011 NBA champions.
Look for Parsons to provide Houston with a presence on the boards as well as from beyond the arc on Sunday. His size and ability to put the ball on the floor make him a tough guard and will for the Mavs this weekend.
Key Matchup: James Harden vs. Dirk Nowitzki
In their most recent win over the Rockets, the Mavericks held James Harden to just 20 points on 5-of-23 shooting from the field. Odds are, if Harden has another performance like that, Dallas will improve to 3-0 against Houston this season.
But if Harden goes off for 30-plus points like he did in the first matchup between these two teams, there's a strong chance the Rockets finally snap their skid against the Mavs.
On the other side, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki will have to negate Harden's scoring with some impressive production of his own. Nowitzki averaged 18 points per game over the month of February, well below Harden's 28.7 mark for the month.
The Mavs will need Dirk to post around 20-25 points on Sunday in order to come away with a hard-fought road win. Although he's reached that plenty over the course of his career, I don't think he'll put up quite enough points to get the job done on Sunday.
Will the Mavs make it 10 in a row, or will the Rockets rule?
Both Dallas and Houston have been struggling as of late, but while the Rockets have been strong at home this season (19-9), the Mavs have been disappointing on the road (10-20). With that in mind, I like the Rockets in this matchup.
Neither team defends well at all, but Houston is slightly better offensively in terms of scoring and shooting percentage.
I anticipate a high-scoring, close battle with the Rockets pulling away in the fourth quarter to come away with a huge win, one that would be their first over Dallas since the last night of 2009.
Rockets 112, Mavericks 103
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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