Houston (4-2) at Dallas (4-2)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Dallas, TX
Temp: 50° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Tue Nov 10, 2009
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The return of Josh Howard(notes) brings the Dallas Mavericks more balance.

It seems the Houston Rockets have little choice but to go that route offensively.

These in-state rivals play Tuesday night for the first time since Dallas cost Houston its first division title in 15 years.

The Rockets had the Southwest Division crown and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference within their grasp going into their final game of the 2008-09 season, but they lost 95-84 in Dallas. That gave San Antonio the Southwest title while Houston settled for the fifth seed, one spot ahead of the Mavericks.

Both teams would lose in the conference semifinals and they appear capable of getting at least that far this season after strong starts, though Dallas (4-2) no longer has major injury problems while Houston (4-2) will have some all season.

As the Rockets await Tracy McGrady’s(notes) return and know Yao Ming(notes) won’t be back, the Mavericks saw Howard make his season debut Saturday in a 129-101 win over Toronto.

Dallas had five players score in double figures for the first time en route to its highest point total of the season. Only one player scored more than 20 - Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (29) - for the sixth straight game, but three others came close as Jason Terry(notes) had 19, Shawn Marion(notes) 18 and Howard 16.

Marion, acquired from Toronto in July, got his first glimpse at how good Dallas’ offense can be now that Howard has rejoined the mix.

“It felt good, but a little weird because we haven’t been out there,” Marion said. “It’s always good to have another weapon out there.”

Howard, who averaged 18.0 points in 2008-09, missed the first five games following surgery to his ankle and wrist.

“It’s something I have to keep working through,” said Howard, who expects to be sore for a while. “Of course I’m fatigued and I have to work through the process of getting back to 100 percent, which I’m not. But I felt pretty good, getting back in the swing of things.”

Houston should be feeling pretty good despite Yao (foot surgery) being out for the season and McGrady (knee surgery) unlikely to return in 2009.

The Rockets have won four of five, scoring more than 100 points in each, and the only loss came in overtime to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

They have six players averaging at least 9.8 points - newcomer Trevor Ariza(notes) leads the way with 20.8 per game - and a different player has led Houston in scoring in three straight contests.

“We’ve got unselfish guys on this team,” said rookie Chase Budinger(notes), averaging 10.6 points off the bench. “Nobody on this team is playing for themselves. We are playing together, and everybody has got one goal in mind, and that is to win games.”

Five Rockets scored in double digits Friday in a 105-94 win over Oklahoma City. Two days earlier, six were in double figures against the Lakers, and two days before that, eight scored at least 10 in a win at Utah.

“It’s pretty much going to be like that the whole season,” forward Luis Scola(notes) said.

Coach Rick Adelman will be going for his 865th career victory, which would break a tie with Jack Ramsay for 11th place all-time.

These teams split four meetings last season as each won once on the road.

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Tuesday, Nov 10