Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks Preview and Pick

Houston Rockets (40-20) at Dallas Mavericks (39-22), 9:30 pm Eastern Thursday, TNT
by Zman of Predictem.com

The hottest team in the league looks to put an end to its troubles against an in-state rival when the Houston Rockets hit Big D to take on the Dallas Mavericks in a key Western Conference bout in the night-cap of an NBA/TNT double-header Thursday night.

As of mid-Thursday morning, few books had posted a line on this game, because of the suspension of Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki.

In beating Indiana Wednesday 117-99, Houston extended its winning streak to 16 games. The Rockets have also won their last seven games by double-digits, and have won 10 in a row on the road. But even after winning 25 of its last 28 games, Houston still sits in third place in the Southwest Division, 2 games behind first-place San Antonio. The Rockets also occupy 5th place in the Western Conference standings, just 2 games out of the lead but also only three games ahead of Golden State, which owns the eighth and final West playoff spot at the moment.

On the other side of this match-up, the Mavericks are coming off two straight tough road losses, to the Lakers in overtime and, Monday night, at Utah 116-110. And Dallas will be without Nowitzki Thursday after he was suspended for one game after committing a flagrant foul vs. the Jazz. This will be the first game the big German has missed this season; last season, the Mavs went 3-1 straight up but just 1-3 against the spread in the four games Nowitzki missed.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Dallas is in fourth place in the Southwest, four games back of the Spurs, and in 7th place in the West, one game behind sixth-place Phoenix and a game and a half ahead of the 8th-place Warriors.

The Mavericks have held the upper hand recently in the series with Houston. Dallas took three of four games from the Rockets last season, and are 3-0 vs. their in-state rivals this season. So over the course of the last seven games in the series between these two teams, all of which have been played in the last 15 months, the Mavs are 6-1 both straight up and against the spread. And the o/u is 3-4 over those last seven games in this series, which have averaged 187 total points.

This season, Houston is a profitable 35-24 against the spread, and 18-11 both straight up and vs. the numbers on the road. Meanwhile, Dallas is 25-30 ATS this season, 25-3 SU (3rd-best in the league) but just 11-13-4 vs. the numbers at home.

Statistically speaking, the Rockets rank 7th in the league in point differential at +4.8 per game, while the Mavs rank 11th at +3.8.

Houston is shooting 45% from the field as a team this season, 34% from beyond the arc and just 73% from the free-throw line. At the other end of the court, Dallas is shooting 46% from the floor, 35% from long range and a league-leading 82% from the line.

Also, the Rockets lead the league in rebounding at +4.5 boards per game and rank 2nd in FG defense at 43%, while the Mavericks rank 4th in rebounding at +2.7 per game and 7th in FG defense at 45%.

On the injury front, Houston is playing out the season without center Yao Ming, who suffered a broken foot 10 days ago. But the Rockets are 4-0 both straight up and against the spread since Ming went down.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com ranks Houston 8th at 94.7, Dallas 9th at 94.5. Sagarin’s current NBA home-court advantage figure is 3.3.

The o/u is 25-34 in Rockets games this season, which are averaging 189 total points, while the totals are 30-29 in Mavs games, which are averaging 195 points.

Zman’s Pick: With Houston being as hot as they are and Dirk out on suspension, I don’t see how Dallas will counter. Take Houston plus the point.