Texas rivals the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks meet in the first round of the NBA playoffs kicking off their series tonight in Houston for Game 1. These two teams do not like each other in a matchup between two sides that play tenacious and aggressive football. Read our game preview and betting pick for this game.
The Mavericks enter this game hoping to do one better than last year when they came within one game of causing a major upset against the San Antonio Spurs. This veteran team has been waiting for the playoffs all season long, but they’ve barely crawled into the postseason finishing the season ice cold and dealing with injuries.
There’s some carry over with those injuries with both Devin Harris and Chandler Parsons still listed as questionable for Game 1. Parsons is crucial to providing a third scoring option shooting on the wing behind Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks play an outside shooting game and Parsons is a necessary part of that puzzle. Dallas doesn’t have a ton of depth, which makes the absence of Harris also crucial. He provides Dallas coach Rick Carlisle with as many bench minutes as anyone else and provides a valuable presence running the team’s second unit.
It’s hard to figure how good Dallas are, but they do have experience, they do have a future Hall-of-Famer in Nowitzki and one of the NBA’s best head coaches in Carlisle. He’ll make adjustments and he’ll have a defensive strategy laid out to at the very least slow James Harden down.
Harden has been pretty difficult to slow down this season. He finished the season averaging 27.4 points and 7.0 assists per game on a team that doesn’t really have a clear second scoring option. Harden’s free throw shooting is elite, he gets to the basket and of course he steps back and shoots his fair share of threes as well.
The questions around the Rockets start after Harden. The loss of Patrick Beverley, specifically his chemistry with Harden and his defensive presence, is a big deal and Dwight Howard has only played nine games since missing a big chunk of the season. Howard will need to step up against Tyson Chandler in this series and he needs to find his role playing effectively as the #2 star on this team with Harden if Houston are going to make a playoff run.
Trevor Ariza, Terence Jones and Josh Smith will also have big roles to play in this and it’s worth noting that while a lot of the talk is around Dallas making it an ugly game, Houston has the players to compete in that type of matchup.
Betting Preview: Houston (-5) vs. Dallas
We’ll take the points with Houston in Game 1. Dallas are still getting healthy and we expect them to make this series highly competitive, but the Rockets will use the home crowd’s energy in this game to beat this spread.
The Pick: Houston (-5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 43-34