PREVIEW: Mavericks at Rockets- Jan. 2

Dec 29, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates after center Dwight Powell (7) scores against the Houston Rockets during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Mavericks at Rockets- Jan. 2

The Rockets will open the 2023 portion of their schedule when they host the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center on Monday. It’s the fourth and final regular season between the two teams and their third game in the last 11 days. The Rockets enter the game having lost 8-of-9.

Eye on the Mavericks

Record: 21-16 (4th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 115.5 (6th)

Defensive rating (rank): 113.2 (18th)

The Mavs enter Monday’s game winners of six in a row behind a monster stretch from Luka Doncic. He’s averaging 42 points on 58% shooting, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists during the Mavs win streak with three 50-point games. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich jokingly pounded the table before Saturday’s game and declared his team would hold Doncic under 50 points, and he finished with 51. Former Rockets center Christian Wood is averaging 19 points on 55% shooting over the last six games.

Matchup to watch: Luka Doncic vs. Everyone

Doncic has torched the Rockets in the two games he played against them this season, scoring 35 points last week in Dallas and 53 on Dec. 23 at Toyota Center while shooting 55% from the field and 48% from behind the 3-point line. Kevin Porter Jr. and Jabari Smith Jr. drew the bulk of the assignment against Doncic the first time he played the Rockets, but it was Eric Gordon, who missed the Dec. 23 game with a thumb injury, who spent more time on him than any other Rocket last week. Doncic only scored two of his 35 points when Gordon was the closest defender, though he only took two shots. There are no good options when Doncic is rolling the way he is, and making things tougher is that running a second defender isn’t a good option because that’s what he wants you to do, so defending him straight up might be the Rockets’ best option.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets committed 25 turnovers in their loss to the Knicks on Saturday, with 21 coming after the first quarter. After finishing last season with a 16.2 turnover rate, the worst in the NBA, the Rockets have actually gotten worse through the first 36 games of the season, with 17.2% of their possessions ending in a turnover.

“There are glimmers of hope and sunshine at times where it looks like we’re turning the corner when it comes to the turnovers,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said on Saturday. “Then we have a night like tonight where we just did it too much. I hate, I hate, hate, hate saying it’s a young guy thing, young team thing and all that, but at some level, it is.”

The Rockets had gone four straight games without committing more than 15 turnovers, but Saturday was a big step back.

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