• There are nine games on the NBA schedule for the 16th of March, and we know you don’t have time watch all of them. That’s why Hoop Ball is here, to guide you to the games you don’t want to miss.

    The Honorable Mentions: The Thunder to take on the Celtics, the Bulls go up against the Wizards and the Hawks face the Pistons.

    Now for the games you need to be watching.

    Dallas Mavericks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Tip Time: 7 pm (est)

    Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH

    Player Matchup: Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love

    The Dallas Mavericks are doing everything they can to hold on to their eighth-seeded playoff spot. They currently hold a two-game lead over the Utah Jazz, but with just 15 games left in the season, each matchup begins to hold more weight than the last.

    In their previous matchup with the Cavaliers, the Mavericks did not back down from the challenge of facing the number one team in the East. The game went into overtime, though the Cavs would come out victorious. A lot has changed since then, at least for Dallas.

    Head coach, Rick Carlisle, has been experimenting with his starting unit as of late. His most recent experiment has involved removing Zaza Pachulia out of the starting unit, moving Dirk Nowitzki to the center position and having Raymond Felton start at the shooting guard spot. The result – the team ended a season-high five-game losing streak.

    “We changed the lineup just because we needed a shakeup,” Carlisle said about replacing Pachulia in the starting unit. “Everything is on the table game to game.”

    Defensively the Mavs are a mess. Over their last six games, Dallas has surrendered an average of 107 points per game to their opponents and is currently ranked 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Offensively the Mavs can compete with anybody. The team is first in the league in turnovers per game (11.9) and is 10th in offensive efficiency.

    The future Hall of Famer (Nowitzki) is having himself another solid season. In 61 games this year, Nowitzki is averaging 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Over his last 10 games, Dirk has averaged 22.8 points, seven rebounds and is shooting 53.1 percent from the field.

    Cleveland is seamlessly chugging along with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. However, it seems as if fatigue is beginning to beset this team. The team fell hard to the Jazz in their fourth game of a four-game West Coast road trip, recording their second worst scoring performance of the season (85 points).

    The Cavs are now about to embark on a very tough stint in their schedule as they will be playing three games in four nights. Head coach Tyrone Lue has said that he will be looking to rest his players.

    “Three (games) in four nights,” Lue said. “Have a game and then leave again and have a back-to-back. So during that three-game stretch I will look to rest guys.”

    (Be sure to stay close to Hoop-Ball.com for any updates on the status of the players.)

    Power forward, Kevin Love, has continued to struggle all season. In his last 10 games, Love has been averaging 13.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and shooting an abysmal 32.2 percent from the field.

    In the last matchup against the Mavericks, Love was able to rack up a double-double, but was still almost a non-factor in his 37 minutes of play due to his three fouls and shooting a miserable 26.3 percent from the field.

    The last three times Dallas has visited Cleveland, the Mavericks were able to leave with the ‘W’.

    Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets

    Tip Time: 9:30 pm (est)

    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    Player Matchup: Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan

    These two teams, who found themselves facing each other Western Conference semi-finals just one season ago, are now in two very different places as a franchise.

    With less than a month to go in the season, the Rockets are looking to stay afloat in the playoff picture as both they and the Mavericks are tied with a 34-33 record.

    Houston has defeated the Clippers in two out of their three meetings this season. A key reason for their success has been the play of center Dwight Howard. In those three games, the 11-year veteran has averaged a massive 26 points and 20 rebounds per game.

    As everyone knows by now, the Rockets are by no means a team that struggles to score the basketball. Houston has scored 100 or more points in eight straight games and is averaging 114.4 points over their last five. Defensively is where this team finds themselves losing games. The Rockets are giving up an average of 106.6 points per game to their opponents.

    The Clippers, on the other hand, are right where they need to be in the standings. They currently sit fourth in the Western Conference, and if the season ended today, they would be facing a depleted Memphis Grizzlies’ team in the first-round of the playoffs. (Can you say first-round bye?)

    The Clips have dropped three of their last four games, with each loss coming at the hands of a team that is considered a ‘title contender’ (Thunder, Cavaliers and Spurs).

    The leader of the team, Chris Paul, has had himself a great year averaging 19.9 points, four rebounds and 9.8 assists per game. With the Clippers looking avoid a three-game losing streak, look for the 10-year veteran to take advantage of Houston’s lackluster defense.

    If you’re someone who loves to watch games with all offense and very little defense, then this is the game for you. For the fans out there who play daily fantasy, you may want to use this game as the focal point of building your lineups.

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