Series Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks
*Photo via AP photo
The explosive second seeded Houston Rockets (56-26) will take on the seventh seeded Dallas Mavericks(50-32). This is a classic interstate rivalry, and the first time since 2005 that they will be matched up in the playoffs. This will be an offensive based series, expect high scores! The Mavericks averaged 105.2 points per game , while the Rockets averaged 103.9 a game, it’s safe to say it will be a shootout.
Despite overall averaging more points per game than the Rockets, the Mavericks lost the season series three games to one.
95-92 Rockets over Mavericks
99-94 Rockets over Mavericks
111-100 Mavericks over Rockets
108-101 Rockets over Mavericks
The Rockets are an offensive jump shot shooting master piece, they average a league high 32.7 three point attempts a game. Five more than any other team, while shooting a respectable 34 percent off those 32 attempts. As well they have likely MVP runner-up James Harden, who has shown he is a superstar, and on any night can explode for 30 plus points. Along with Harden, the supporting cast is no joke. Dwight Howard is finally healthy and alongside Terrance Jones, Josh Smith and Donatas Motiejunas can lead an attack down low. Which will resulting in more time and space for Harden, Trevor Ariza and the support cast to hit threes. The Rockets also with the size they have down low, are a rebounding threat to a Maverick team, that at times struggles with rebounding the ball.
The biggest weakness for the Rockets is, if the shots aren’t falling, what’s plan B? This is the common issue with jump shot shooting teams, if the shots aren’t falling will they try and shoot out of it or change their game plan to an attack the basket mentality. Another issue this Rockets team has, they average 22 fouls per game. If the Rockets get into foul trouble early and have to sit certain players, the Mavericks have the offensive ability to make them pay. Furthermore, the Mavericks are an above average free throw shooting team, averaging just over 75 percent from the line. The last weakness for the Rockets is their high rate of turnovers, the Rockets ended the season tied at 29th with 16.7 turnovers per game. If the Rockets get sloppy with the basketball and the Mavericks can capitalize and force turnovers, this close nit series could get closer.
For me the X-Factor is of course James Harden. Harden has the ability to attack the Mavericks in every way, shooting, driving, isolations and if he gets any of those three things going; setting up his teammates for good looks becomes even easier.
The Dallas Mavericks are one of those teams where there isn’t a true superstar, but they have a core group of All-Stars who play together. Despite being the third highest scoring team in the league this year, behind the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons, the Mavericks do the little things very well. The Mavericks were top ten in the league in assists per game, sharing the ball is always key for deep playoff runs. As well the Mavericks are one of the elite teams in taking care of the basketball, by only surrendering 13 turnovers per game. Another big advantage is the Mavericks' bench averages 35.7 points per game, while the Rockets bench average only 27.2 points per game. Lastly they are one of the best at attacking a weakneesses’ of the Rockets. The Mavericks draw around 22 fouls per game, while the Rockets foul around 22 times per game. This will be where the Mavericks most likely will focus their game plans around, getting the Rockets into foul trouble.
The Mavericks biggest issue is their defense. They may score a huge 105.2 points per game, however, they allow 102.3 points per game. Against and offense like the Rockets, you have to play smothering defense, something the Mavericks haven’t done much of this season. Another issue the Mavericks face is rebounding. Besides Tyson Chandler this team struggles in cleaning up the glass, going against Howard, Jones and Smith rebounding will be a huge disadvantage if someone doesn’t do the dirty work for the Mavericks.
The Mavericks bench will be the X-Factor. Anytime your starters come out and your bench can score and expand a lead or keep a game close, you’ll always have a chance in a seven game series.
Game 1: Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets Saturday at 8:30pm on ESPN
Game 2: Dallas Mavericks @ Houston Rockets Tuesday at 8:30pm on TNT
Game 3: Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks Friday at 6:00pm on ESPN
Game 4: Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks Sunday at 8:30pm on TNT
The Rockets are the clear cut favorites with James Harden, but much like last year don’t sleep on the Mavericks. If the Mavericks can do the little things they do well I see this series going seven. With that being said though, I predict the Houston Rockets to take this series in six. Expect a high scoring series, with edge of your seat finishes.