Tonight, the Rockets will look to get their first win in their “I-45 Rivalry” series with the Mavericks this season, as they take on Dallas at home. Even though the Mavericks made one of the bigger trades of the 2018-19 NBA season by recently acquiring star PF Kristaps Porzingas from the Knicks for DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr., the organization has already announced he will not be making an appearance this season in order to fully heal his ACL injury from last season. Moreover, a few weeks later on deadline day, the Mavericks completed a trade mid-game (which likely will go down infamously in NBA history) sending arguably their second best player, Harrison Barnes, to the Sacramento Kings for two far lesser players, Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson, with the former already being waived by the team in an effort to clear up salary space.Essentially, over the last few weeks, the Mavs have blown up this season’s roster in an attempt to build a future championship contender centered around their two burgeoning European stars. In the 5 games since they made the Porzingas trade the Mavs are 3-2, with two of the wins coming from games against sub-500 Eastern Conference teams and the other coming at the expense of Trail Blazers last night. While the Mavericks do not look like an objectively lesser team over the last few games, as they now have enhanced bench scoring with the addition of Trey Burke, improved 3 PT shooting recently (35.4% over the last 3 games), and Doncic is seemingly gonna be Doncic more often than not as he continues to have a an amazing rookie season, they are still not a competitive playoff team in Western Conference.

The previous two times this season these two teams played, the Rockets lost largely in part to injuries, the disparity in rebounding, and because of the play of Luca Donicic looking to take Jason Terry’s previously retired role on the Mavericks of the “Rocket Killer”. On the bright side for the Rockets, the Mavericks rebounding capabilities have been largely reduced with the departure of Deandre Jordan, and the Rockets are now close to fully healthy with Capela being the sole rotation piece still sidelined with an injury. That being said, the Rockets must not let themselves continue to be beaten on the boards the way they have in most of their losses since Capela has gone down, which in particular provided OKC with a bunch of 2nd chance points in the 2nd half in their loss on Saturday night. Secondly, sure OKC had MVP hopeful Paul George play probably what was his best game of the season, and sure the Nuggets had one of the better offensive games in recent franchise history against the Rockets in their previous loss a few games back, but the lesson remains the same in both instances for the Rockets – they need to string together a full 48 minute stretch of concentrated, tough, defense, especially against the leagues’ top teams and on nights when James Harden looks a little less superhuman. The Rockets have had a slight improvement with their bench scoring as of late due to their previous roster additions, and James Harden will very likely continue to keep the Rockets afloat offensively with his historic tear, but for the Rockets to compete near the top of the Western Conference standings there must a continued focus on the defensive end and on the boards, especially against teams they should be beating. I would like to say that the Rockets use the lessons learned in the OKC loss to win this game tonight handily, but in the I-45 rivalry, anything is possible, so I think the Rockets narrowly take a close one against the Mavs at home.

Prediction: Rockets 110 – Mavericks 107

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The trade deadline brought is finally past and the general consensus among fans is that the Rockets struck out. You can read our more in depth thoughts here, but in general Houston’s moves were pretty underwhelming.

The good thing is, we no longer have to think about contracts or cap space or players with ball-handling worse than a fifth grader (goodbye James Ennis!), because the Rockets are back! Here are a few things to look out for tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

  • OKC is one of the hottest teams in the league. A loss against the Celtics is their only loss in the last 10.
  • Battle of MVP candidates? We all know that James Harden is going crazy this season, but Paul George is quietly putting together a very impressive season. In his last six games George is averaging 36.5 points.
  • Houston has been a revolving door of wings this year, but fans are hoping Iman Shumpert can make his mark. The Rockets “big” trade deadline pick-up was having a resurgent year for the scrappy Kings before he landed in Houston. If Shump can keep shooting the three-ball at a decent clip, he should fit right in.
  • Gerald Green is as streaky as ever. Green was on fire against Sacramento and Utah, scoring 50 points on over 50 percent from three. Sandwiched in between those two games was the win over Phoenix, in which Green scored nine on 36 percent from the field. Which Gerald will we get tonight?
  • Those damn triple-doubles. It was Russell Westbrook and his triple-doubles that stole the MVP away from James Harden in 2017, and Westbrook is at it again. Russ has notched eight straight triple-doubles heading into the Rockets game tonight. It would warm my heart if the Rockets could get some justice for 2017 and end Westbrook’s streak tonight.

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The Red94 Week In Review

Time to decompress from the trade deadline onslaught of news.

The Rockets beat the Kings this week in strong form and some of it had to do with the great energy that Chris Paul and company brought to the floor. Here is a cool heads up play to get Eric Gordon some space from deep.

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