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3 observations after the Dallas Mavericks shut out the Houston Rockets, 129-114

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The Dallas Mavericks (20-16) defeated the Houston Rockets (10-25) on Thursday night, 129-114. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks to their fifth straight victory with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists. Jalen Green edged past the Rockets with 23 points.

The Mavericks started the first quarter with good energy, attacking Houston with the dribble and getting to the line early and often. Unfortunately, rookie Jabari Smith Jr.’s hot kick kept Houston in the game. Luka Doncic scored an easy 14 on the board as all Maverick starters got on the board within the first twelve minutes. Dallas led the Rockets 36-30 after one.

The second room was a dirty affair; points were few and far between and the referees called many fouls in the first six minutes of the game. The Mavericks found some offense when Luka came back and built a double-digit lead through the Doncic-Dwight Powell connection. The lid also came off the basket for the Rockets, but they couldn’t open Maverick’s lead. Doncic hit a wild three to end the fourth and the Mavericks took a 65-51 halftime lead.

The wheels came out to Houston in the third as Dallas put pressure on the rim at both ends and the Mavericks proceeded to hit three. Christian Wood scored 12 in the first six minutes of the quarter, but also committed his fourth and fifth fouls, forcing him to the bench. It didn’t matter though, as Rocket’s putrid defense couldn’t stop Luka Doncic from running Dallas’ offense. The Mavericks entered the final frame at 99-79.

Luka Doncic played until about eight minutes into the quarter in an attempt to help the Mavericks pace enough to hold off Houston for the rest of the game. The bench unit and end bench unit would continue to hold the lead for the remainder of the game. The Dallas Mavericks are still riding high, winning five in a row, this time defeating the Rockets 129-114.

Beating a bad team

Until this recent winning streak, the Mavericks had a pretty rotten record against sub-.500 teams. During this winning streak, Dallas couldn’t get away with one, but there’s a good reason for that with so many injuries to key players. So to see Dallas bring the hammer against a really bad Rockets team was really cool to see.

Luka Doncic, in particular, had an excuse to take it slow, scoring 60 points in an overtime win on Tuesday. However, he attacked early and kept pace throughout the game. We’re fast approaching the low point of the season and after a December with so many games, it’s understandable that the Mavericks are tired. But if they want to avoid the game, everyone will have to find a reason to play hard night after night, especially against smaller teams.

team on the run

There was a rather amusing discussion in the first half with the Dallas broadcast team where they wondered aloud why Dallas is no longer a transition team. They know the answer, but it’s understandable why they don’t say it: Luka Doncic.

Dallas doesn’t run because Doncic doesn’t push after scoring and rarely advances the ball in transition to other teammates. They tend to play faster when he’s on the bench. Against the Rockets, Dallas opted to push early and often and took advantage of an undisciplined Houston team. The fast-breaking 25-3 point lead has to be the biggest points lead in this category all season. I understand why they don’t run more, but it could benefit the Mavericks to surprise teams more often by increasing the pace.

Christian Wood block party

It’s a good bet that Christian Wood is well aware of his eight-game, two-plus-block streak. He had four tonight against Houston, which didn’t cost Dallas, but if he’s going to be more defensively aggressive this way, he’ll also need to be aware of his fouls. Using that length to Dallas’ advantage is a big thing, especially since Dallas doesn’t have much in the way of team rim defense, but Wood is valuable to what Dallas does and it’s important that he stays out of trouble.

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