Another beautiful Wednesday for basketball! We have an all Florida matchup, as LeBron James and Miami go to Orlando to face Victor Oladipo and the upstart Orlando Magic. We also have Josh Smith heading home, as the Detroit Pistons go to Atlanta to face the Hawks, the Clippers and Timberwolves are in battle for round two, this time in Minnesota, and the Wizards head up to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers, in a matchup of disappointing Eastern Conference teams. Last time the Wizards and Cavaliers faced off, Kyrie Irving went off for 41 points, so there’s always the potential of another Irving explosion. If an old-fashioned slaughter tickles your fancy, ESPN has the Indiana Pacers facing the New York Knicks in the early game.
All great games, but none of them are your Game of the Night.
Tonight’s Game of the Night will be the Houston Rockets, traveling to Dallas to face Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, in a matchup of two Texas teams. The Rockets and Mavericks are closer than you think, but you wouldn’t know it, based on the way these teams are being talked about. The Rockets are discussed in the vein as an early season disappointment, while the Mavericks are being swept under the rug. Hopefully, this game will help Dallas receive some recognition, but the Rockets will be looking to continue the early season success, as well as making the league from disappointment to right on track for contention in the Western Conference.
The Houston Rockets are 8-4, which places them just two games away from the top of the West, but they’ve fit the early season description as a disappointment. Yes, the Rockets are fine on the offensive side of the ball (4th in the league with a 106.5 offensive rating), but the 11th ranked defense seems low, especially with Dwight Howard holding down the fort. To tag along with the defense, Omer Asik, one of the best defensive centers in the league, is asking for a trade, and James Harden continues to stray on the defensive end. There are some positives, Chandler Parsons (16.5 points and 5.6 rebounds) is excellent in his role, the duo of Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley are good enough to run Houston’s offense, and Terrence Jones is an interesting player, whether as a bench piece or trade chip. The Rockets are championship contenders, but moving Omer Asik for one more player, would go along way towards helping them reach that goal.
Let’s take a trip to Dallas. The Mavericks are just behind the Rockets offensively (6th in the league with a 105.6 offensive rating), and a large part of that has to do with the offseason addition of Monta Ellis. Ellis is averaging 22.1 points while shooting 47% from the field. After two seasons of bad basketball in Milwaukee, Ellis is excelling in his new role, which pushes him more to attack the basket, and the numbers suggest that he’s excellent at just that. According to NBA.com’s SportsVU data tracking, Ellis averages 7.6 points per game on drives and his drives has averaged 15.5 points for his team, both rank second in the league. Along with Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki (19.3 points and 5.9 rebounds) has served as another great offensive player, while the duo of Shawn Marion (12.6 points and 8.0 rebounds) and Samuel Dalembert (7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds) offer the Mavericks two defensive presences, enough to allow Dallas to have an above-average defense.
The Call: I’m going with the Rockets here. Monta Ellis is good at drives, but Dwight Howard allows just 29% from the field when he’s guarding the rim. Not just Howard, but Patrick Beverley can also defend Ellis on the perimeter, making those drives a bit tougher. Shawn Marion is great defensively, but who does he defend? Guarding Harden leaves Parsons open and defending Parsons leaves Harden open to attack. Then, I look at this game as another game for Terrence Jones to further prove his value as a rotation player. I say Dwight Howard has a big game (let’s say 28 points and 15 rebounds), and the Rockets walk away with the win. Rockets 115, Mavericks 108.
National TV: ESPN
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET