HOUSTON – If the Mavs don’t show more pride than they have while getting punked the last two games, they might not make the playoffs.
All it takes is a quick scan of the Western Conference standings to figure that out.
The Mavs headed to Houston tied with the Grizzlies and Clippers, 9½ games back from the West-leading Thunder. The Rockets are part of a three-team pack with the Jazz and Nuggets a half-game behind the Mavs’ group. And the Suns, who are 7-3 in their last 10 games, are lurking as a sleeper threat.
That’s seven teams fighting for five playoff spots. If the Mavs want a chance to defend their championship, they better show more fight than they did in blowout losses to the Lakers and Spurs.
The Lakers outrebounded the Mavs by a 46-29 margin. The Spurs beat the Mavs on the boards by a 54-34 margin.
“They kicked our ass,” fill-in starting center Ian Mahinmi said.
If the Mavs aren’t the aggressors against the scrappy Rockets, they’ll likely pack a three-game losing streak for the short flight home.
Records: Mavs (27-22); Rockets (26-22)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Toyota Center
Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)
What to watch: Rick Carlisle’s rotation will be heavily scrutinized. Does Lamar Odom play after being benched against the Spurs? Does Rodrigue Beaubois get another start? Does Vince Carter come off the bench again? There’s a little more than a month left before the playoffs. While the Mavs are fighting for a spot, they’re also trying to establish some sort of continuity.
Key matchup: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Luis Scola – Nowitzki cited heavy legs as an issue during an individual performance against the Spurs he described as “brutal,” missing his last 13 shots from the floor and grabbing only two rebounds in 37 minutes. He has a quick turnaround and a tough task. Scola isn’t as good as Pau Gasol, who got the best of Nowitzki in the Mavs’ loss Wednesday, but he’s one of the best players who have never been All-Stars. He averages 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds and has stepped up his game recently with starting guards Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin sidelined.
Injuries: Mavs – C Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) is out; G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) is out. Rockets – PG Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) is out; SG Kevin Martin (strained right shoulder) is questionable.
Next: Rockets at Mavs, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday