W2W4: Houston arrives at AAC with heavy legs

DALLAS – The Mavericks looked at this home-and-home set with the Houston Rockets like a mini-playoff series.

The Rockets didn’t have that luxury.

The Mavs got a day off and a practice day after Saturday’s overtime win over the Rockets at the Toyota Center. The Rockets played another overtime game Monday night, rallying to beat the Sacramento Kings.

Houston has had an especially hard time in the butt end of back-to-backs since the All-Star break. The injury-ridden Rockets have lost four of five such games, with the lone win coming over the Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA’s worst team.

The schedule gave the Mavs a significant edge in a game that could be critical in the fight for playoff positioning. The Rockets can pull even with the Mavs in the standings by winning on the road, but a Dallas win would create a two-game cushion for the Mavs.

"They played last night, so we have to come out and attack early and often," Mavs swingman Vince Carter said. "We have to get up and down the floor. First of all, if we rebound the ball, we can get up and down the floor. We have one one of the best decision-makers in the game so we have to take advantage of it."

Records: Mavs (28-22); Rockets (27-23)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center


Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Rockets point guard Goran Dragic plans to play after twisting his right ankle during overtime last night. Houston has huge problems if Dragic can’t go or isn’t effective. Their other healthy point guards are Earl Boykins, a 5-foot-5 35-year-old who signed a 10-day contract Monday, and D-League call-up Courtney Fortson. Dragic had 24 points, eight assists and only one turnover Saturday night against the Mavs.

Key matchup: Samuel Dalembert vs. Ian Mahinmi – Mahinmi has to give the Mavs more than he did Saturday night in Houston, when he had only one point and two rebounds in 18 minutes. Dalembert had 16 points – nearly double his average – in that game. Dalembert scored eight points in the first nine minutes against Mahinmi, allowing the Rockets to build an early nine-point lead.

Injuries: Mavs – C Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) and G Delonte West (fractured right ring finger) are officially listed as questionable but not expected to play. Rockets – PG Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) and SG Kevin Martin (shoulder) are out; PG Goran Dragic (ankle) expects to play.

Up next: Mavs at Miami Heat, 7 p.m., Thursday