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Rockets present different challenge

DALLAS -- Don’t be surprised if the injury-depleted Houston Rockets manage to make this a knockdown, drag-out game that goes down to the wire.

That doesn't seem logical, considering the red-hot Mavs have won five in a row, including wins over a few healthy teams expected to make some playoff noise. But it would fit the trend the Mavs established last season, when they lost a handful of games to teams missing their stars.

Heck, the Warriors walked out of the AAC with a win last year despite having only six available players. The Rockets, minus Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks, are capable of beating the Mavs if the home team goes through the motions.

Coach Rick Carlisle is well aware of that, but he doesn’t have a rah-rah speech ready to make sure his team is properly motivated.

“Those guys have heard every speech there is to hear about focusing and staying hungry,” Carlisle said. “We’ve worked hard to get ourselves on a bit of a roll here, and we’ll see how we respond tonight. I can’t guarantee that we aren’t going to go out there and struggle.”