The Dallas Mavericks (28-22, 18-8 home) get set tonight to host the Houston Rockets (27-23, 8-16 away) in a critical game between two Western Conference playoff contenders, with tip-off at 8:30 PM ET from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. With just 1 1/2 games separating the two Southwest Division rivals, and the Western Conference playoff picture far from solidified, there’s no question that both these teams will be set on boosting their chances of a playoff appearance, while at the same time diminishing the playoff prospects of their rival.
After meeting for the first time on the season on Saturday (a 101-99 overtime win for the Mavericks), tonight’s second of three season match-ups for the two Texas teams looks to be another showdown in which the game will likely come down to the wire. With the last two meetings between these two in-state rivals going into overtime, and the previous two contests before that decided by a combined 9 points, there is plenty of evidence to expect this match-up to turn out in similar fashion. The upper hand in tonight’s game however may go to the Dallas Mavericks, who have shown strong form at home, and should be well rested having not played a game since beating the Rockets at Houston over the weekend. Houston on the other hand comes into tonight’s tip-off after a tough win at home last night, beating the Sacramento Kings 112-106 in overtime. Having to battle back from 16 points down, but getting a spark from newly recruited veteran Earl Boykins and seeing Patrick Patterson have a huge 24 point game, Houston at least should be in good spirits heading into tonight’s contest, but will have to overcome the fatigue of having to place twice in a 24 hour span. That’s something that has proven to be a burden to teams during this lockout-shortened season.
A number of other issues pop up for the Rockets in this match-up with Dallas. First, Houston has truly struggled to pull out wins away from home, going 8-16 on the road despite the fact that they’re still scoring reasonably well (96 points/game away, 10th in the NBA) and shooting the ball decently (44.7 percent, 9th in the NBA). The continued absence of point guard Kyle Lowry (15.9 points, 7.2 assists, 5.3 rebounds/game) and top scorer Kevin Martin (17.1 ppg) certainly doesn’t help Houston on the road this time of year either. As such the Rockets will again have to rely more on their veteran newcomer Earl Boykins, who played in only his first game of the season last night, and has been called upon to step up as a bench scorer behind Goran Dragic. It’s promising that Boykins dropped 10 points in his first outing this season, and hit some clutch free-throws to help Houston pull away from Sacramento in overtime, but putting a 12-year veteran on the court for extended time just 24 hours after his first start of the season may be cause for concern especially against a good defensive squad like Dallas. Therefore, the Rockets will have to lean more heavily tonight on Dragic once again, who has stepped up admirably in place of Lowry over the past few weeks (16.8 ppg, 10.4 assists in his last 5 games), and will once again be running the Houston offense. Dragic put down a big game against the Mavericks on Saturday, with 24 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds, so watch out for him to be a big factor either way tonight. Also important for Houston is the play of their big men, considering the depth issues around the perimeter. Louis Scola (15.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg) simply must have a solid game on both sides of the ball tonight, and seeing another big game out of Patrick Patterson certainly wouldn’t hurt either. Lastly, the veteran transfer Marcus Camby could provide a great defensive boost to the Rockets, if he and Samuel Delambert can have a better combined night tonight. Houston does have good size and height with Camby added to the line-up, and if they can dominate on the glass at Dallas, things may start to look up for the Rockets in this match-up.
The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand is a team that prides itself on scoring depth, and rotating a lot of players into the game each night. There are 9 players on the Dallas roster that average more than 20 minutes per game, and while the top scorers have contributed less than in years’ past, now there are 11 players on the roster averaging more than 5.7 points per game. With a lot of combinations available and the ability to adjust when certain players aren’t having great shooting nights, Dallas has been able to have success with their veteran talent coming up clutch in tight games, as indicated by the fact that they average just 1.7 points more than they allow per contest. For Dallas to have success at home this evening, they are going to have to take advantage of their depth, keeping legs fresh as much as possible, and utilize their bench scorers, who are providing 40.6 points/game (3rd in the NBA) this season. As Houston could possibly be a bit sluggish coming into back-to-back outings, a hot start for Dallas with good player rotation will pay dividends down the home stretch of tonight’s contest. That said, once again and as always Dallas will need strong efforts from two of its biggest scoring contributors, Dirk Nowitzki (31 points vs. Houston on Saturday) and Shawn Marion (12 points, 15 rebounds on Saturday). With Marion looking solid coming off a knee injury and Nowitzki averaging nearly 27 points/game over his last 5 contests, these two Mavs could have a huge impact against a Rockets team that doesn’t necessarily have a strong defensive answer for mobile and strong shooting big mean.
Online Sportsbook Betting Lines for Dallas vs. Houston at TopBet Sportsbook
While neither team comes into this match-up off the best form, with Houston 6-4 in their last 10 and Dallas 5-5, the main reason why Dallas is such a big favorite on the money line (-335 odds) is three-fold; 1). Dallas is well rested, not having played since Saturday while Houston comes off a tough overtime game last night, 2). Houston is missing its top-two scorers, and 3). Houston has been beaten 5 straight times by Dallas, and is one of the weakest road teams in the NBA this season. Houston comes in at +275 odds to win straight up, and while the pressure of the playoffs along with the history between these two teams will make this game exciting, Dallas simply has far too many advantages tonight to chase the straight up bet on the underdog.
Against the spread however, this match-up starts to become more interesting for online sports betting. Dallas is a huge 7.5 point favorite (-110 odds), while Houston gets 7.5 points (-110 odds) to play with for underdog pickers. The fact that the last four games between these two teams have seen overtime twice, and just 9 points separating the teams in the two meetings before that, shows just how intense of a rivalry this is, regardless of missing personnel or not. Remember that even though Houston was missing both Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry for last weekend’s clash with Dallas, the Rockets still managed to push an overtime game at home, and nearly outlasted Dallas at full strength. While the Rockets form on the road is certainly questionable, the boost for the Rockets with veterans Early Boykins and Marcus Camby in the line-up could be a key factor in at least getting Houston within the 7.5 points on the spread tonight.
The over/under for tonight’s game stands at 193 points, which if this game again goes into an overtime situation would make over pickers especially happy. That said, Dallas has been playing well on defense at home, and Houston has not scored nearly as well on the road this year. Despite the fact that Houston is averaging a whopping 108.6 points in their past 6 victories, they are also averaging 95.5 points in their six most recent losses. The Rockets are indeed susceptible to struggle shooting tonight, especially down the home stretch of the game, so look out for this game going under as Dallas looks primed to squeeze out another close victory on solid defense in tonight’s fine clash between in-state rivals.