This is it. This is what it comes down to for the boys in blue. The fate of the Dallas Mavericks’ (26-32) season hangs in the balance as they start a home-and-home series with the Houston Rockets (32-28). With Dallas five games back, four in the loss column, to Houston in the race for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, these two games are essentially must-win games for the Mavericks.
The season rests on these next two games, and the Mavericks might as well ride the man who can deliver in their time of need – Dirk Nowitzki. The former league MVP is averaging 21.2 points – 5.1 more than his season mark – on 53.2 percent shooting over the last five contests. In the six games after the All-Star break, Dirk is averaging a double-double clip of 19.7 points and 10.2 rebounds. He likes seeing his in-state rivals in red. Over his career (a total of 53 regular season matchups), Dirk is averaging 22.5 points, 7.6 rebounds on 48.3 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent from 3-point range against the Rockets. Dallas is 35-7 all-time versus Houston when Nowitzki scores at least 16 points. The Mavericks might as well ride through Highway 41 if they want any chance of making it to the playoffs.
Here are the notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Rockets.
The Mavericks have won nine straight and 23 of the last 29 regular-season meetings with the Rockets. It’s the Mavericks’ longest active winning streak against any team. The Rockets’ last victory over the Mavericks in the regular season came at Houston on Dec. 31, 2009(defeated Dallas 97-94). However, seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams have been decided by seven points or less.
The Mavericks have taken 13 of the last 17 showdowns in Houston, including a 116-109 win at the Toyota Center on Dec. 8. O.J. Mayo tallied a career-high-tying 40 points to go along with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in 42 minutes for the Mavericks in the win. The Mavericks recorded a 105-100 win over the Rockets in Dallas on Jan. 16 and now lead the 2012-13 season series, 2-0.
Dirk Nowitzki (right knee surgery) was unavailable for the game against the Rockets in December. Nowitzki recorded a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds in the win over the Rockets in January. Shawn Marion (right groin strain) also missed the game at Houston in December, but had 18 points and nine boards in the game in Dallas in January. Mayo is averaging 29.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 37.5 minutes in two starts against Houston in 2012-13.
It’s a Small World:
Rockets guard Jeremy Lin began his NBA career with the Mavericks’ Las Vegas summer league team in 2010. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle were teammates on the Boston Celtics from 1984-86 and won an NBA championship together in 1986. Mavericks big man Elton Brand is currently tied with McHale for 24th place on the NBA’s all-time blocks list with 1,690 career rejections.
Mavericks guard Mike James had two stints with Houston. He played in 27 games with Houston in 2004-05, and 33 games with the Rockets in 2007-08.
Rockets player development coach Greg Buckner played for the Mavericks from 1999-2002 and again in 2006-07.
Vince Carter (Daytona Beach), Dominique Jones (Lake Wales) and Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (Casselberry) were all born in Florida.
Mavericks athletic trainer Casey Smith and Rockets athletic trainer Keith Jones worked together on the athletic training staff for the U.S. Sr. National Basketball program from 2006-2008 (2006 World Championships, 2007 Olympic Qualifying, 2008 Summer Olympics).
1. Don’t have fear in Houston’s beard. James Harden led all Western Conference scorers in the month of February (28.7 points per game) and was third in the West in steals per game (2.10 steals per game). Harden ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring average (26.3) through Mar. 1. Harden has a single-season best 49 20-point games. He came into 2012-13 with 29 20-point performances over his first three seasons combined with Oklahoma City.
2. Handle the pace, but stay patient on offense. The Rockets lead the league in terms of overall pace with an average of 96.3 possessions per 48 minutes. That leads to them being a team that can light up the scoreboard. While Houston’s 106.6 points per game rank as the NBA’s second-highest mark, it is yielding an average of 103.7 to rank 29th. The Mavericks are 22-7 when scoring at least 103 points compared to 4-25 when they don’t. The Mavericks are 16-7 this season when they hold their opponent to under 100 points.
3. Play like there’s no tomorrow. Dallas simply has to let it all hang out against Houston. Play like there’s no tomorrow because if they lose either game to the Rockets, they’re likely just playing the games out with no real hope of making the playoffs.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.