The Mavericks will play the Houston Rockets tonight for the second time in 16 days at the Toyota Center tonight. The Rockets are their first repeat opponent of the season, and will look for a repeat of the first game, a reasonably easy 107-98 victory. Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming had their usual big nights, but Houston got very little production out of anyone else. It was the Rockets' first loss of the season, and things have not gone well since the Mavs took care of them.
Four-game losing streak
They have gone 3-4 since that game, but their road has been rather difficult. The night after their game in Dallas, they travelled home to play San Antonio the next night. They mustered enough against the Spurs and would go on to rattle off another three-game winning streak with an easy win over Milwaukee and a win over Charlotte. Then things would turn bad. Memphis dispatched the Rockets a little too easily and the Lakers and Spurs would then have some revenge for their early losses to Houston. They would extend their current losing streak to four by getting punished by Phoenix Saturday night. The Suns benefited from Tracy McGrady sitting out with a strained right elbow and in turn, Yao Ming would have his worst game of the season by far, finishing with 12 points and 6 rebounds on 4 of 17 shooting.
McGrady says he'll play
It's obvious that Yao benefits from having another player on the floor to demand a double team, and the Rockets main key in tonight's game is T-Mac's play. McGrady practiced Monday and said he was ready to go. No one else on the team even comes close to commanding the type of respect on defense that T-Mac does, and if he is at full strength as he says he is, the Mavericks will have to key on him as they always do and push Yao around in the post as best they can. If he is still hurting or doesn't play, the Mavericks must harrass Yao at all times and defend the three adamantly as McGrady's abscence would allow for more defensive pressure on those two key areas.
Guards still up in the air
The Rockets were supposedly coming into this season with a problem many teams would like to have. They had a log jam at point guard with Rafer Alston and Luther Head competing with new additions Mike James, Steve Francis and rookie Aaron Brooks for a starting position at the point. So far, Houston's point guards rank in the bottom third of the league and have been grossly inefficient in an offense that thrives on ball movement and motion. Francis finally played his first game of the season against Phoenix and didn't do a lot in his 23 minutes on the floor. With McGrady out, he could see some time against the Mavericks but is obviously still rusty and might be a little bit washed up. Mike James started the last game at shooting guard and did OK. He has been scoring but is horribly inefficient by shooting 36 percent on the season. If Houston goes with this undersized starting lineup, the Rockets might be in an uphill climb all night.
Scola is warming up
Coming into the season, Houston was expecting big things from 27-year-old rookie Argentenian power forward Luis Scola. Until his last two games, he had done nada. Maybe something finally clicked with him as he has scored 20 points in both games against Phoenix and San Antonio and shot 66.6 percent from the field. He had the first double-double of his career against Phoenix with 11 rebounds and will look to carry over the solid play against the Mavericks.
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd