The Dallas Mavericks will be facing off against a fellow Southwest division foe for the first time this season in its second game of a three-game road trip at the Houston Rockets on Monday night.
While the two teams know each other well, the Rockets will have a few new faces on their sideline, one of which the Mavs know especially well.
This past offseason, the Rockets and former head coach Mike D’Antoni parted ways, ushering in the Stephan Silas era. Silas is widely regarded as a player’s coach, and being able to connect with a brooding superstar is something likely needed during the current James Harden debacle.
Silas was one of the driving forces behind the Mavs historic offense last season and the offensive ingenuity for the Mavs in the post-Dirk world.
Will Silas’ prior knowledge and development while spending time on the Mavs bench under head coach Rick Carlisle be enough to counter the schemes, rotations and strategy Carlisle is so well-known and effective at?
Chopping up Wood
The main headline for the Rockets this offseason was obviously the deal sending Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall. While Wall has the bigger name and reputation of Houston’s recent additions, another recently acquired player seems to be having the greatest impact so far.
Enter stretch-big Christian Wood, who was brought in via sign-and-trade from the Detroit Pistons for Trevor Ariza and other assets to be later traded to Portland.
Through four games, Wood is averaging 23.8 points per game on 55.7% shooting, with 1.5 three-point makes per game. Add in 10.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and two assists per game and Wood has been doing it all while playing power forward or small-ball center.
Without 7’ 3’’ Kristaps Porzingis in the lineup, the Mavs have shown an inability to guard mobile, versatile big men with consistency. Don’t be surprised if Wood ends up having the biggest night out of anyone on the court while the Mavs use a platoon of Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and James Johnson to try to extinguish his recent hot streak.
Pace and Space
A point of emphasis in what seems to be every Carlisle-led team is protecting the ball from turnovers. After Sunday night’s loss at Chicago, the Mavs currently are fourth in the league in protecting the ball with just 12.5 turnovers per game compared to Houston sitting at 19th with 16 per game.
With John Wall and James Harden looking to push the ball often and early, the Mavs will need to take advantage of the Rockets’ giveaways while making sure to play at the pace Luka sets, if he returns from injury after sitting out Sunday night.
While it is no secret, Dallas has struggled mightily when taking shots from behind the three-point line. Shooting a lowly 30%, the Mavs rank dead last in the league at three point shooting percentage, while the Rockets post a much more respectable 35.1%, good for 19th.
The outcome of the game will likely be decided based on pace, as the Rockets took two out of three games last season and each game saw both teams score over 120 points.
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