Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets Preview and Pick

Dallas Mavericks (32-21) +3.5 at Houston Rockets -3.5 (33-21) O/U 199 8 PM ET Friday February 20, 2009 on ESPN
By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight in the battle of the Lone Star State, minus the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks visit Houston to play the Rockets. The Rockets pulled off a minor trade before the deadline sending PG Rafer Alston to the Orlando Magic to Brian Cook and Memphis Grizzlies guard Kyle Lowry.

These two teams will battle in the second half in the Western Conference for playoff positioning, that is if they make the post season, as the Rockets are in the 6th position and the Mavericks are in 7th. The Rockets may be hoping just to make the playoffs, as Tracy McGrady is out of the season with a knee injury and the Mavs look to move up, as they have played much better since Jason Kidd was allowed to call the offensive plays. The Rockets are in 3rd place in the Southwest Division trailing the Spurs by 3.5 games and the Mavs are in 4th place game behind the Rockets.

This season the Rockets are 20-6 at home and the Mavericks are 14-13 in away games.

Hoops bookies have the Rockets favored by 3.5 points with a total around 199. The Rockets are posted at -145 as home favorites and the Mavs are posted at +125 as away dogs.

The Mavs come into this game after crushing the New Jersey Nets 113-98 on Wednesday night, The High scorer for the Mavs in that game was Josh Howard going for 24 points on 8/17 shooting. For the game the Mavs shot lights out going 42/77 from the floor for a scorching FG% of 54.5%. On D the Mavs allowed the Nets to shoot 38/80 for a FG% of 47.5%.

In their last game the Rockets also beat up on the Nets winning 114-88 on Tuesday night. The high scorer for the Rockets in that game was Yao Ming going for 20 points on 9/15 shooting and also grabbing 12 boards. For the game the Rockets shot 40/88 for a FG% of 45.5%. On D the Rockets allowed the Nets to shoot 32/80 for a FG% of 40%.

The Mavs rank 10th in the league in scoring (101.1 ppg) and the Rockets rank 18th (98.6 ppg). On D it is pretty much flipped around, as the Rockets rank 9th in points allowed (95.4 ppg) and the Mavs rank 16th (99.7 ppg). The Rockets are a better team at hitting the glass, as they have a rebounding differential of +3.4 rpg and the Mavs are at +0.9 rpg.

This season the Rockets are 24-29-1 ATS and the Mavs are 24-28. In terms of Over/Under games this season the Rockets are 29-24-1 and the Mavs are 24-27-1.

On the injury front SF Jerry Stackhouse is day-to-day and Jason Terry is Out for the Mavs and SF Tracy McGrady is Out and PG Kyle Lowry is day-to-day for the Rockets.

Both teams are dealing with injury problems, but at least the Mavs will get Jason Terry back this season but McGrady is out for the year and will have the dreaded micro-fracture surgery on his troublesome knee.

The key in this game will be how the role players will play D on the other team’s stars. Luis Scola will have his hands full guarding Dirk Nowitzki (25.8 ppg), who is a 7 footer who can drain the 3 and take the ball to the hoop. For the Mavs, Erick Dampier will also have a hard time guarding Yao Ming (19.8 ppg), who can drain the mid-range J and playing out from the under the hoop on D is not Dampier’s strong suit.

Ming has been a nightmare for the Mavs recently, as he has averaged 27.3 ppg and 13.3 rpg in 4 games versus Dallas since the start of 2007-08.

Dampier has to hit the boards tonight and not allow the Rockets to dominate the glass.

Jason Kidd (9.1 ppg 8.5 assists per game) has to play well and distribute the ball to Nowitzki and Josh Howard (18.1 ppg) and play an up-tempo game to get some easy hoops for the Mavs.

If Dallas wins this game it may represent a power shift in the Western Conference.

Jason’s Pick: Houston -3.5.