Tough Task

The Dallas Mavericks were already going to face a tough task Thursday, trying to snap the Houston Rockets' 16-game winning streak.

Now, they'll have to try and beat their surging division rival without leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Dallas –5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at X total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that X% of bets for this game have been placed on X (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Mavericks (39-22) are looking to win their seventh straight over Houston (40-20), which set a new franchise record for consecutive wins on Wednesday with a 117-99 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Houston has also lost five straight in Dallas and 10 of its last 11 trips there. The Rockets' only win during that stretch was a 124-114 victory on Jan. 12, 2005.

Nowitzki, will be sidelined, however, as he serves a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul he committed during Monday's 116-110 loss to Utah. The foul - which left Utah's Andrei Kirilenko with a sprained hip - was originally specified as flagrant-2, but the league upgraded it on Wednesday to flagrant-1, which calls for the suspension.

Nowitzki had been playing well recently, averaging 30.4 points over the last 10 games. Thursday will be the first game he's missed this season. In four games without Nowitzki in 2006-07, the Mavericks went 3-1.

The Rockets are also playing without their big man. With Wednesday's win, Houston improved to 4-0 since center Yao Ming was declared out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

Tracy McGrady scored 25 points in the victory over the Pacers, and Rafer Alston added 21 points as the Rockets won their 16th straight and for the 20th time in 21 games.

"This was a big win for us, we were trying to make history," said McGrady, who also had six rebounds and five assists.

The victory was also Houston's seventh straight of 10 points or more.

Houston forward Shane Battier said the team wasn't going to celebrate the record for too long, however.

"I think most of us are already focused on Dallas," said Battier, who had seven points against the Pacers after scoring 20 in a 103-89 win over Denver three nights earlier. "We know that this game, while significant, doesn't really guarantee us anything."

Dallas, though, is trying to avoid losing three straight games for just the second time this season, and the first time since Nov. 23-26. The Mavericks open a five-game homestand Thursday after dropping two straight on the road - a 108-104 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, followed by Monday's loss to the Jazz.

Dallas took a three-point lead with 6:29 remaining at Utah, but then allowed 16 unanswered points.

"We're just not able to close games like we should," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We're not there yet, but boy, once we get there, I think the sky's the limit."

Dallas has allowed its last three opponents to score at least 100 points, and the 116 points it gave up to the Jazz were the most allowed by the Mavericks since a 122-120 loss to Sacramento on Jan. 14.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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