Jeremy Lin, far left, James Harden and the Houston Rockets look to bounce back from Friday's loss to San Antonio when they take on O.J. Mayo, top right, and the Dallas Mavericks at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CTD at the Toyota Center in Houston. (Photo : Reuters)
All in all, it was just not a good night for the Houston Rockets (9-9) Friday night.
Not once did they take the lead in the San Antonio Spurs' dominating 114-92 win at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, despite James Harden's 29 points.
But they'll get their chance for revenge against San Antonio when they host them Monday; right now, Houston has other problems to deal with, in the form of a visiting Dallas team Saturday night.
After falling back to a .500 mark, the Rockets - hoping to contend for a playoff spot this season - look to rebound tonight and get the momentum back behind their streaky 2012-13 campaign when they return home, a place where they've won six straight, to take on O.J. Mayo and the struggling Dallas Mavericks (9-10) who have lost six of their last 10 games.
Latinos Post breaks down the key matchups for tonight's game:
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons, Rockets, vs. Vince Carter/Shawn Marion, Mavericks:
Like many of the Rockets, Parsons, 24, did not have a good night on Friday, shooting only 30 percent from the floor for seven points. The good news for the Rockets, though, is that it seemed to only be a rare off-night for a player whose stock has been on the rise this season.
Averaging 17.6 points in the last six games, Parsons is making a strong case for why the Rockets selected him alongside three other players - Harden, Lin and Asik - to represent Space City on the 2013 All-Star Game ballot, the game to be held in Houston this season.
Meanwhile, 13-year veteran Marion, scoring 12.6 points in the last five games, is listed with a groin injury and is listed as doubtful for tonight's game. This leaves Vince Carter, who at age 35, can still throw down with the best of them, as the likely starter. Carter's still got game, but it's doubtful if he can stop a surging Parsons.
Power Forward: Patrick Patterson, Rockets vs. Elton Brand, Mavericks:
It's an interesting match-up this Texas battle at the four spot shows tonight--one of these players on the rise, and the other heading towards a decline.
The 22-year-old Patterson, with two full seasons under his belt, is having the best season of his NBA career so far, averaging 13.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17 games for the Rockets in 2012-13. And in four of the last seven games, the very quick Patterson, who is becoming a far more effective shooter, has scored 20 points or higher.
On the other side of the court, Brand, a career 18.0 percent scorer who once averaged 24.7 points a night for the Clippers in 2005-06, has steadily declined in the last few years. He was never the same after sustaining a devastating shoulder injury when he was knocked to the floor after going for a rebound in a December 2008 regular season game against the Bucks.
And yet Brand, who has scored 9.6 points in his last five games, has shown some flashes of his old dynamic scoring ability, scoring 17 points in two of those games. Expect the 13-year veteran Brand to test Houston's young power forward tonight.
Center: Omer Asik, Rockets vs. Brandan Wright/Chris Kaman, Mavericks:
After a forgettable Friday night in San Antonio where he scored no points on 0-of-6 shooting and committed five turnovers, the normally reliable Asik will no doubt be looking for redemption tonight.
Kaman, who is posting 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds during the last five-game stretch, is dealing with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable for tonight's game against Houston, leaving reserve Brandan Wright to pick up the slack. Wright had an effective game in Thursday's win against the Suns, scoring 16 points.
But if Asik comes out with something to prove and Kaman can't play, the paint could belong to Houston tonight.
Point guard: Jeremy Lin, Rockets vs. Derek Fisher, Mavericks:
For the second straight game, Lin shot in single digits, making only 2 of 9 shots in Friday's loss to the Spurs.
That's one shot less than the eight shots he took in Tuesday's win against the Lakers. While Rockets' young point guard has been having an abysmal shooting season, he appears to be producing more when his field goal attempts hit double figures, scoring 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting in Houston's Dec. 1 win against Utah.
Lin can regain his shooting touch tonight, but he will have a tough time of it against Fisher, who, at age 38, is still a crafty defender for his new team, the Mavericks. After sitting out the first month of the season, Fisher played his first game with Dallas on Dec. 1, and the former Laker scored 15 points in Dallas' 112-90 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday.
If Lin wants to make any impact, he will need to use his athleticism and youth to counter Fisher's defensive savvy and game experience. But if Lin commits any turnovers or leaves his opponent unchecked, Fisher is still good enough to make the Rockets pay.
Shooting guard: James Harden, Rockets vs. O.J. Mayo, Mavericks:
Make no mistake, folks, this is going to be the marquee match-up of the game.
Despite a losing effort on Friday night by Houston, Harden still ratcheted up 29 points on solid 10-of-16 shooting from the field. That's a marked improvement from the last three games, during which Harden shot a combined 13-of-51.
And Harden, the league's fifth-best scorer at 23.9 points a game, is still producing at a solid pace, averaging 22.6 points over the last six games.
He'll face stiff competition when he locks horns with Mayo, the Mavs' best player (that is, the best one not named Dirk Nowitzki, still out after knee surgery.)
Mayo's scoring started to go erratic in the first two of his last five games--where he scored only 11 points in a loss to Philadelphia and four points in a blowout loss to Chicago. But Mayo, who is putting up 17.8 points over five games, has since rebounded with a 23-point effort on 9-of-17 shooting in a Thursday win over Phoenix.
Harden, a notoriously tough defender, will need to play a solid defensive game to contain Mayo. If Mayo is taken out of the equation, that spells bad news for the Mavericks.
With Carter and Wright starting tonight, much of Dallas' bench will be depleted, leaving Jae Crowder, a floundering Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones to back up the Mavs. By comparison, Houston supersub Carlos Delfino (12.3 points in the last three games) is backed by Greg Smith, Toney Douglas and Daequan Cook, a young yet talented backup corps that can hold the line.