Yao and the rest of the Houston Rockets hope to end a six-game losing streak against their intrastate rivals when they host the Mavericks at the Toyota Center.
Yao, in only his second NBA season, has already won against every other NBA team. But he’s 0-6 against Dallas.
The Mavs have won both meetings with the Rockets this season, including a 97-88 victory in Dallas on Feb. 21.
Asked afterward if the Mavericks are “in his head,” Yao admitted, “Yeah.”, through an interpreter.
Yao has struggled against Dallas, averaging 13 points in six games. The 7-foot-6 center averages 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds on the season, leading Houston in both categories.
The Rockets are one of the top defensive teams in the league, holding opponents to 85.8 points and an NBA-low 40.4 percent shooting.
Dallas is the second-highest scoring team in the league at 103.6 points per game. The Mavs scored 97 points in both wins over Houston this season.
Dallas is looking to get back on track after back-to-back road losses against Minnesota and San Antonio, respectively.
Nowitzki scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, while Nash, who missed the previous two games with stomach flu, collected seven of his 12 assists in the period.
“We came out in the first half like it was unimportant,” said Nash, who finished with 13 points. “It was like we were just punching the clock instead of trying to get somewhere.”
Dallas is currently fifth in the Western Conference and trails the Los Angeles Lakers by a game for the fourth spot. The top four teams get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
STANDINGS (through March 5): Mavericks - 3rd place, 4 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Rockets - 5th place, 8 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 21.3 ppg; Nowitzki and Walker, 8.7 rpg; Nash, 8.4 apg. Rockets - Yao, 17.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg; Francis, 6 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 21; Mavericks, 97-88. At Dallas, Nowitzki had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Finley added 19 points to lead the Mavs. Dallas rallied from a 16-point first-quarter deficit.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 11-18 on the road; Rockets - 21-10 at home.