Mavs prep for pivotal season series finale vs. Rockets

Practice Report: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki weighs in on his efficient production of late, how he expects the Rockets to defend him Wednesday night, his goal of making the playoffs this year and much more.

DALLAS — With a chance to both make up ground in the Western Conference standings and seize the season series against one of their Southwest Division rivals, the Dallas Mavericks will have plenty on the line Wednesday night.

Playing the second outing of a four-game homestand, the Mavericks (26-20) will attempt to conclude the season series with a 3-1 mark against the Houston Rockets. However, after three old-fashioned shootouts with the Rockets (29-17) earlier in the season, the Mavericks know they’ll have their hands full against big man Dwight Howard and scoring assassin James Harden.

“It’s usually a very opened-up game,” 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said following Tuesday’s team practice. “[The Rockets] love going up and down. They take quick shots, and that obviously is a lot of possessions for both teams. It’s been fun games and close games. It feels like we’ve played them eight times this year already. You know, this is our fifth time, including the one in the preseason, so both teams obviously know what each other are doing and it’s a fun challenge. We were fortunate Harden didn’t play down there last game, so they’re at full strength again. We were a little fortunate when we were down 18 here with a couple of minutes left and we did a heck of a comeback, so hopefully we don’t put ourselves in that position again and start the game off better. Defensively, we’ve got to be great. I think they started off with six or seven threes here last time in the first quarter, and hopefully we’re a little sharper than that in the first quarter.”

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle looks ahead to Wednesday's matchup against the Houston Rockets, the work the team is putting in on the defensive end and more.

After a 113-105 defeat in Houston back on Nov. 1, the Mavericks rallied from down 18 late in the third quarter to capture a 123-120 home victory over the Rockets on Nov. 20 as Nowitzki scored 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and starting 2-guard Monta Ellis led the way with a season-high 37 points. One month later, with Harden out of the lineup during the third showdown of the season between the in-state rivals due to a sprained left ankle, the Mavericks needed every bit of Nowitzki’s 31 points and a 15-1 run to open the second half in order to erase a seven-point halftime deficit en route to a 111-104 road win back on Dec. 23.

Wednesday, the Mavs will try to get off to a better start, hoping to lean on Nowitzki once again in order to capture a much-needed win against one of the Western Conference’s upper-echelon teams.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit against teams above us or even in the Eastern Conference (against) teams that have a better record. I think we have a losing record against those teams, so any game that we can win against those teams is big and is a confidence builder. If you look at the (playoff) race, we can’t really afford to lose any games, so it would be another huge win for us and we’d get the tiebreak. They’re only a couple games ahead of us, so it’s a big game and it’s a fun game,” Nowitzki confessed.

Meanwhile, the Mavs will try to take advantage of a Houston squad that will likely be playing on tired legs as the Rockets come to town following Tuesday’s showdown at home against San Antonio. And with Nowitzki averaging 29.3 points in three games against the Houston defense this season, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle could once again look the 7-footer’s way frequently in order to move to 2-0 on the team’s pivotal homestand.

“There were a lot of different coverages in the last game, and they did a lot of different things,” Carlisle said. “They double-teamed [Nowitzki] a little bit, then there was a lot of switching, and Dirk made some very tough shots down the stretch. This game could be totally different. I mean, we’ll just have to see. But for us, we’ve got to keep the floor spaced right, we’ve got to get the ball to our playmakers in position and we’ve got to make plays.”

Note: Playing the second outing of their four-game homestand, the Mavericks return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday against the Houston Rockets. The Mavs lead the season series 2-1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 6:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting