The Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks met only three days ago, with Dallas walking away with the 101-99 win in OT. Now the Rockets look to return the favor and tighten up the Western Conference playoff race.

Tip-off is scheduled for Tuesday, 8:30 pm ET at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. 

NBA betting odds have the Mavericks as a 7.5 point favorite and the total is listed at 193.5

Tight Western Conference

Only one game separates the number 5 spot, currently held by Dallas from the number 8 spot, currently held by Houston. I don't think that Houston is looking at this as a revenge game at all, but more of a chance to move up in the Western Conference and are one spot away from being out of the playoffs. Look for the Rockets to come out strong and competitive, and the 7.5 points given to them by the NBA odds makers is an added cushion. 

Following tradition

Luis ScolaAlthough there are several back to back champions in each sport, many teams have had a letdown year the year after they won the title. The Dallas Mavericks would fit into that category. At 28-22 the Mavericks are a mere shell of their 2011 squad. 

Many things factor into the equation such as the lockout, Dirk Nowitzki not being in game shape, a rotten acquisition of Lamar Odom, the loss off spunky point guard J.J. Barea, and the fact that this team is getting older and might have gotten complacent with the one title.

The motivated Rockets

The Houston Rockets on the other hand, are coming from a completely different direction. They have a lot of up and coming stars and are highly motivated as a team. The motivational factor alone will keep this game close.

The Rockets are a team with a lot of depth, veteran leadership and young talent. Currently, veteran Kevin Martin is out with an injury, but veterans Luis Scola and Samuel Dalembert are holding down the fort for Houston 

As a team, the Rockets have ten players that average over 7.8 points per game. Now that's a lot of depth! Goran Dragic and Luis Scola have really upped their level of play as of late to carry this team.

The old and the new

Scola has been a warrior all season and has carried this team on his back. As the season has progressed, Scola has just gotten better and better. 

In his last 10 games, he's averaging 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Scola is coming off of a 18 point and 14 rebound performance in a victory over Sacramento and he's been the definition of efficient, shooting 61.9% from the field in his last 5 games.  

Point guard Goran Dragic has been playing well above his seasonal averages in the month of March. This is a player that averages 9.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game on the season but in his last 10 games he's averaging 16.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 steals, and is shooting 50.8% from the field. Dragic has an ankle injury, but with so much at stake tonight, he'll be ready to go.

Finally getting it into gear

Mavericks vs. RocketsI'm a real Nowitzki fan, but I must say that his numbers (21 points, 6.7 rebounds) have been a false indication of his uninspired play this season. Dirk has actually picked it up in the month of March with a productive 25.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He's coming off of a 31 point and 7 rebound performance against the Rockets. Dallas is better rested and look for Dirk to play well here.

Champions?

Going further into the season, it's questionable that Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks have the miracle run that they did last season. For most of this season, Dirk has been a disappointment and for the team to give him time off to get in shape was the start of the Mavericks downfall. This is a guy that lives for practice, he win's his championship, and all of a sudden he's not fit to play? 

The Mavericks have a really weak roster, and one that is now packed full of washed up has-beens. They need Dirk Nowitzki to get the hunger back that he had last season. He's starting to show that drive again, but I don't know if he can carry this group of old men to another championship.

Key Head to Head Meetings

Over is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings in Dallas

Underdog is 11-5 in the last 16 meetings

Road team is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings

Who wins this Texas dogfight?

I don't want to put my head on the chopping block for bashers, but I really like the Houston Rockets in this game. They recently played the Mavericks and lost by a basket in overtime. Houston has the better team, and they don't want to be blocked into the number 8th spot in such a tight playoff race. This is a team with major energy in Dragic and Scola. I wont say moneyline because of their poor record on the road but add an easy Rockets cover to you NBA Picks.

NBA betting pick - Houston +7.5