NBA Preview: Rockets at Mavericks

Rockets at Mavericks

James Harden and Chris Paul are both healthy, and the Houston Rockets are rolling again. The Rockets will try to push their latest winning streak to four in a row when they open a two-game road trip at the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

Houston swept its three-game homestand by knocking of three playoff teams, capped by a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday in which it trailed by 14 points in the first quarter before battling back. “After the initial hit we took from them, the 33 points (allowed in the first quarter), I thought our defense really stepped up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “We played hard as heck. I thought it could be that way after we got an emotional victory on Saturday (over the Golden State Warriors) and then to get going, we just didn’t come out of the gate very well. But after that our defense is solid.” The Mavericks are coming off a strong defensive performance as well after opening a three-game homestand with a 98-75 win over the Washington Wizards. “It was a great team effort,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told reporters. “Everybody did their part tonight. We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds, but that’s bound to happen. We kept fighting from quarter one to quarter four, so it was a great effort all around.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS Southwest (Dallas)

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ABOUT THE ROCKETS (33-12): Houston can score as well as any team in the league but is getting stronger on the other end as well and limited Miami to 57 points over the final three quarters on Monday after holding Golden State to 17 fourth-quarter points on Saturday. “We have to, every single night,” Harden told reporters about defending. “Our shots might not fall, or we might not have our rhythm, but defensively we’ve got to compete and match each opponent’s intensity. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance every night.” Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (31.4) poured in 28 points on Monday — his highest total in three games since returning from a hamstring injury.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (16-31): Smith highlighted his 17-point effort on Monday with a 360 dunk on a breakaway in the first quarter and is averaging 21.5 points over the last four contests. The 20-year-old North Carolina State product added six assists on Monday to help small forward Harrison Barnes break out of a shooting slump. Barnes finished with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 31 minutes after going 3-of-13 from the floor in a loss at Portland on Saturday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets SG Eric Gordon is 0-of-16 from 3-point range over the last two games.

2. Mavericks PG Devin Harris (concussion) sat out Monday and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Houston took the last five in the series, including a 107-91 win in the first meeting of the season at home on Oct. 21.

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