The Dallas Mavericks are ready for the NBA’s bubble opener against the Houston Rockets. Luka Doncic and Rick Carlisle spoke about the rapidly approaching game.
Friday’s Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets game – the first seeding game for both in-state rivals – is one of the NBA’s most anticipated matchups.
It features two of its highest-scoring teams and four of its most high-profile stars: Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden is averaging 34.4 points per game and teammate Westbrook is averaging 27.5 points per game.
Doncic leads the league in triple-doubles (14), is fourth in assists (8.7), sixth in scoring (28.7) and 19th in rebounding (9.3). Porzingis is averaging 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.
With an average of 118.1 points per game, Houston is second in the league in scoring. Right behind them are the Mavs at 116.4 points per game. In addition, the Rockets led the league in 3-pointers attempted (44.3), followed by Dallas in second place at 41.5.
This all but ensures a shootout of epic proportions in tonight’s game with the final score for both expected to be over 100 points.
It also ensures an exciting look at how the Rockets will use their small ball line up against the Dallas Mavericks’ 7’3″ power forward/center Porzingis. When he goes down low, you have to ask, who from Houston is going to guard him? Harden? P.J. Tucker? This is where the mismatch lies and where the Mavs can be most effective.
“We’re a talented team. Now it’s time for the real deal for the regular season games then playoffs. I think we’re ready to go,” said Porzingis at the team’s Zoom media session. He dropped 13 consecutive points in the Mavs’ last scrimmage on Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
“They’re playing small ball so it’s going to be a bit different. We’ve been working on it for about a week, studying them. They have two amazing players (James Harden and Russell Westbrook), and we’re going to have to stop them.”
Long time coming
Dallas vs. Houston is a game almost five months in the making and against all odds – a global pandemic being the primary obstacle – it’s here. The Dallas Mavericks were the last team to play a full game before the season was suspended on March 11th.
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle had this to say:
“It always felt like everyone really wanted to restart the season. In my capacity as the president of the (National Basketball) Coaches Association, I was in a lot of discussions with the league during the hiatus, with people from the league during the hiatus. They did it the right way. They took a lot of time, they were very methodical, they were very thoughtful, they thought of as many of the scenarios as they could possibly think of, and at the same time left open the fact that there would be things that were going to have to make this whole situation fluid. And it’s been very fluid. Everyone has adjusted (and) adapted.”
Guard J.J. Barea added:
“The team looks great. We have handled this (long layoff) as a team really good. Everybody is positive and enjoying time with each other. Personally, I feel great. The break was good. I’m healthy and I’m ready to go.”
Carlisle characterized the eight seeding games – which all 22 teams in the Orlando Bubble must play before playoffs begin Aug. 17th – as “super meaningful.”
“This isn’t like at the beginning of an 82-game season where there’s a tendency for everybody to kind of ease into it. Every game has a high meaning, so a good start is something that we would love to have. And we’ve worked hard and we feel we’ve got a chance to do it.”
What will the lineup look like?
In addition to the usual starting suspects of Doncic, Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith, what tonight’s lineup will look like is important against the small-ball Rockets whose starters are all 6’8″ and under.
Carlisle has never been known to tip his hand on his starting lineups. He remained tight-lipped when asked after practice Thursday.
Could he insert “elite shooter” (Carlisle’s words) Seth Curry into the starting lineup? Curry dropped 23 points and finished a perfect 8-of-8 from the field and 6-of-6 from 3-point range to lead the Mavericks past the Los Angeles Lakers,108-104 in both teams’ first Orlando Bubble scrimmage.
Maxi Kleber, Antonius Cleveland (a two-way player from the G-League’s Texas Legends) and Barea are also options with all three showing promising individual performances throughout the team’s three-game scrimmage schedule.
“First of all, I’m just happy to be here,” said Cleveland who scored 14 points in the Mavs final scrimmage – a 118-115 overtime win vs the Philadelphia 76ers. “I think that’s what’s important to me, and everything else that I need to be asked to do I’m just going to take it and accept the challenge and just enjoy it along the way.”
Whoever is inserted into the starting lineup will have to bring the noise and the funk from jump to ensure the Mavs land the first punch early.
Can the Dallas Mavericks move up?
The Mavs (40-27) are seventh in the Western Conference standings, just one-and-a-half games behind Houston and Oklahoma City Thunder. They also are only three games behind the No. 4-seeded Utah Jazz (42-23), who opened the restart of their season on Thursday with a 106-104 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
If the Mavs win tonight it would be a confidence booster and just what they need in their bid to move up from the No. 7 seed and secure a chance to get out of the first round. In their current spot, they would play the LA Clippers in the first round of the playoffs which start Aug. 17th.
If they lose, the opportunity to move up gets harder. They would need to win a minimum of three more games in the final seven games than the Rockets.
About the series:
Houston has taken 11 of the last 14 and 17 of the last 23 matchups with Dallas…The season series is currently tied at 1-1 (the first two meetings were both played in Houston)…The Mavericks will be the home team for the neutral-site matchup…This year will mark just the second time that Dallas and Houston will face each other less than four times in a season (the Mavericks swept the Rockets, 3-0, in 2011-12)…
The Rockets have won seven of the last nine matchups in Dallas…Houston has also taken seven of the last nine and 11 of the last 15 meetings at the Toyota Center…Luka Dončić, who missed the second meeting with Houston this season due to a right ankle sprain, tallied a game-high 41 points to go along with a team-high 10 assists, six rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes in Dallas’ 137-123 wire-to-wire win at Houston on 11/24/19…
Dončić is now averaging 24.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.6 steals in five career games against the Rockets…Dallas and Houston split the 2018-19 season series, 2-2 (the Mavericks won the first two meetings and the Rockets won the final two)…The Dallas Mavericks have not won a season series with the Rockets since 2012-13 when they went 3-1 against the franchise (Houston tied 2-2 in 2013-14, won 3-1 in 2014-15, tied 2-2 in 2015-16, won 4-0 in 2016-17, won 4-0 in 2017-18 and tied 2-2 in 2018-19).