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NBA Rockets at Mavericks Preview

January 16, 2007

NBA Basketball - Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks (-7.5, 180) 8:30 PM EST

There is a Texas Two-Step going on in Dallas tonight as the banged up Houston Rockets face the Mavericks. Houston is a 7.5 point underdog heading into this contest, but if they win, it might be considered their best game of the season.

When the Dallas Mavericks blew a 2-0 game lead over Miami in the NBA Finals last year, the franchise was at a crossroads. The Mavericks could either wallow about losing to a team they deemed inferior, or turn the page and focus on accomplishing their goal this year.

After about midway through this NBA season, the path they chose is obvious.

Dallas is 31-8 on the year, 17-3 at home, and 9-9-2 against the spread (ATS) at home. That is after an 0-4 start, which means they are an incredible 31-4 since, owning the best record in all of basketball.

The best part about this team is the players know their roles. Coach Avery Johnson gets a lot of credit for this, but a lot of it should also go to General Manager Donn Nelson. Those guys have filled the Mavericks bench with veterans who are more interested in wins than scoring points.

When you already have three potent scorers like Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry, there are not a lot of shots to go around to everyone else.

Houston is 25-13 on the year, 12-10 away from home, and 13-9 ATS on the road. The crossroads for Houstonís season came on December 23rd when center Yao Ming injured his knee, knocking him out for a couple of months.

Hosuton was 16-12 at that point, but their season appeared to be in jeopardy without their 7í6Ē center who was having the best year of his career. Instead of folding though, Houston has played tremendous basketball, winning nine out of their last 11 games.

The unequivocal key to the run has been the play of center Dikembe Mutombo. The 40 year-old center was washed up in the minds of many, but he is averaging over 13 rebounds per game since Ming went down.

Mutombo still isnít much of a scorer, but Shane Battier and Juwan Howard have both taken up some of the scoring slack. Those factors combined with the great play of Tracy McGrady give Houston a chance to win most nights.

The Rockets follow up this very tough game with a visit from Phoenix on Wednesday, so things do not get much easier. It might take Houstonís best game of the year to win tonight, but this is a team that continues to defy the odds.

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