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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM

Sunday's Essentials

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Game of the Night - Dallas at Houston (-13.5, 216.5), NBATV, 7:05 ET

Houston has won 11 of 12 since Jan. 18, a run that includes wins over the Warriors, Timberwolves, Spurs, Cavs and Heat. They only fell in New Orleans on the night DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL, and nearly forced overtime in that game. Although Golden State entered Sunday with the NBA’s best record courtesy of two more wins, the argument can certainly be made that no one is playing better than the Rockets.

Although there were rumors that Ryan Anderson was available, Houston kept its roster intact at the trade deadline, but got stronger with the news that Joe Johnson had agreed to sign there once his buyout in Sacramento becomes official.

Brandan Wright, an athletic forward/center who has battled injuries in Memphis, agreed to a buyout with the Grizzlies and is also going to spend the next few months helping the Rockets compete for an NBA title.




In the most recent Westgate Superbook odds update, the Rockets were second behind the Warriors to win the Western Conference (11/4) and also had the second-best odds to win the championship (5/1).

Barring injuries, I can’t imagine the odds becoming more lucrative than they are today since James Harden and Chris Paul have proven they’ll be able to co-exist. Clint Capela has made a run at an All-Star berth since Houston has amassed the best record in franchise history through their first 54 games in part because they’ve only lost once with him joining Harden and Paul in the lineup.

Houston will likely finish as Sunday’s heaviest favorite since the Mavs have already ruled out Dirk Nowitzki, Wes Matthews and J.J. Barea, resting their veterans. Harrison Barnes missed time with a sprained ankle but returned with an effective game last night in a home win over the Lakers, so it remains to be seen how many minutes he’ll wind up logging.

Dallas defeated L.A. 130-123 behind Nowitzki’s season-high 22 points and Barnes’ 21 in his first game since Feb. 3. Doug McDermott, acquired from New York at the deadline in a three-way deal that sent Devin Harris to Denver and moved Emmanuel Mudiay to the Knicks, was included in the closing lineup for Saturday night’s win and should play a large role here. Dennis Smith, Jr., Yogi Ferrell and Kyle Collinsworth will likely log the bulk of the backcourt minutes, while forwards Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber will join center Salah Mejri to round out the frontcourt rotation.

The Mavs have dropped the first two meetings against their Southwest Division rivals, falling 107-91 and 104-97. Both games went under the posted total. Houston has won six consecutive meetings against Dallas, last losing in April of 2016. The Rockets have won their last four home games against the Mavs, last losing in ’15.

Cavs clash with Celtics

There might be a time in today’s game in Boston where Cavs forward LeBron James is surrounded by a unit on which rookie Cedi Osman is the player he’s most familiar with.

That won’t be the case out of the gate, since Tyronn Lue has already committed to a starting lineup and will bring three of his four newly acquired weapons off the bench.




George Hill, a point guard with plenty of playoff experience who was brought into help upgrade the Cavs’ porous perimeter defense, will get the nod next to J.R. Smith in the backcourt. James and Osman will be joined by Tristan Thompson up front. Rodney Hood, Larry Nance, Jr. and Jordan Clarkson will come off the bench. It’s certainly a disadvantage to have to integrate so many new pieces on the road against the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics, but the Cavs will at least have depth they didn’t enjoy in Friday’s 123-107 win in Atlanta. Jeff Green, Kyle Korver and little-used newcomer John Holland out of Boston U. were Lue’s three most viable options off the bench.

He’ll now be able to counter the Celtics’ depth, but it will be on James to make sure everyone around him gets comfortable. Coming off a game where he displayed an ability to do just that in dishing out 19 assists, it would be wise to take any props involving the dispensing of dimes since he’s been credit with 34 over the past two games.

Boston looks like it will be dueling with Toronto for not only the Atlantic Division lead, but the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs should now have enough pieces to hold off the Pacers, Bucks and Pistons in the Central Division, but it’s hard to imagine them rising above the East’s No. 3 seed.

This nationally-televised contest (ABC) will be the final one between these teams until the postseason. Cleveland won the first contest way back on Oct. 17 in the season opener, while Boston won the most recent meeting, 102-88, on Jan. 3. Marcus Smart remains sidelined for the Celtics, who come off a home loss to Indiana on Friday night.

Injury report

The Knicks will likely see Mudiay debut at Indiana, but with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined, are still waiting to feature Enes Kanter in addition to Michael Beasley. The Turkish center is unlikely to get back into the lineup due to mouth surgery that should keep him out at the Pacers. Indiana lost point guard Darren Collison to arthroscopic surgery earlier in the week and have seen Cory Joseph struggle as his replacement.

Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony continue to nurse ankle sprains that forced them to sit out Thursday night’s loss to the Lakers, and no definitive word has come down on their availability for Sunday’s home date against the Grizzlies. Memphis will see Tyreke Evans return after it attempted to trade him.

The Jazz own the league’s longest winning streak at eight games, but may not be at full strength for tonight’s visit to Portland. Ricky Rubio (hip) is listed as questionable, while the newly acquired Jae Crowder is expected to debut. Utah waived Derrick Rose, who is now weighing his options.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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