The Dallas Mavericks (30-16) will head down to southeast Texas to face off against the Houston Rockets (31-14) tonight at Toyota Center. Viewers can watch the Mavericks vs. Rockets game online via live stream - free for subscribers - below.
According to Stats LLC, James Harden will need to carry the load again in tonight's game if Dwight Howard fails to step up. The All-Star leads the league with 27.6 points per game and has scored at least 33 in each of those contests.
"It's my job to be not only a scorer, but a facilitator," Harden said. "Make sure everybody is happy, getting good shots."
Harden, who shoots a combined 54.1 percent according to Stats LLC, explained how the Rockets could improve their gameplay on the basketball court.
"We've got to do a better job closing out games," Harden said. "It's definitely getting there. We're more than capable of being the best defensive team in the league, but we've got to focus on it every game."
According to Stats LLC, Howard's playing status remains unclear thanks to an aggravated injury he received during a practice session on Tuesday. However, Rockets coach Kevin McHale plans to use Terrence Jones as part of his game strategy, despite the fact Jones has been out since Nov. 3 thanks to a "nerve inflammation" in his left leg.
"He had a really strong training camp and at the start of the season he was playing very well, was confident, moving very well, stronger," McHale said in regards to Jones. "So right now it's getting a guy that can move right into your rotation, it's like making a trade. It's huge for our team."
According to Armin Khansari of SB Nation, a scheduling quirk in the current NBA season meant that the Rockets and Mavericks will meet all four times this year on a back-to-back. Khansari elaborated on how much scheduling mattered in the NBA.
"Every team in the NBA has schedule gripes. It sucks and absolutely makes a difference in games," Khansari wrote. "On the one hand, it allows the 'any given game' scenario to play out. But on the other, it can hurt teams when they are trying to make headway in playoff races."
Khansari then turned his focus on the schedule between the Rockets and Mavericks.
"Tonight is game two of the series, with game three right after the All-Star Break and game four in April," Khansari wrote. "The Mavs being on a back-to-back makes every game winnable, whereas in the past it seemed that Houston was getting ambushed when these teams met."
As for the Mavericks, Stats LLC argued that the team will need a boost after averaging 98 points during a three-game skid. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle commented on what his team has to do in order to win.
"We've got to sustain effort during defensive possessions," Carlisle said. "Right now it's a hard conference. It's a hard stretch of schedule."
Stats LLC added that Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 34.7 on 62.7 percent from the floor over a three-game stretch against the Rockets. Khansari noted that Nowitzki can shoot over anyone that guards him, so Khansari turned the focus on what the Rockets could do to counter him.
"If Howard doesn't play, I expect Dirk to hide on Dorsey as much as possible on the other side of the ball," Khansari wrote. "The Rockets will counter by trying to guard Dirk with Josh Smith and having D-Mo patrol with Chandler."
The game will also be a chance to show that the Mavericks made a good decision in trading for Rajon Rondo. Khansari elaborated on what the team has received from Rondo so far.
"Dallas' offensive efficiency has dropped since they traded for Rondo, but their defensive efficiency has gone up," Khansari wrote. "That's a huge plus for them since their biggest issue moving forward and in the playoffs will be their defense. They can score on anyone, and Rondo's abilities are tailor-made for the playoffs when the game slows down."
Tonight's game will air at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Southwest and Comcast Sportsnet-Houston. While a subscription is required, online viewers will be able to stream this game on NBA League Pass.