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NBA schedule: Mavericks and Rockets face off with top-ranked offense and defense

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The NBA has a nine-game slate Saturday that promises some great matchups between playoff teams, headlined by Rockets-Mavericks and Cavaliers-Raptors.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There are a few good games going on this Saturday night but two stand out.

The Southwest division has been a gauntlet, featuring five teams above .500 and dominated by the league-best 11-2 Memphis Grizzlies. A step below stand the Dallas Mavericks (10-3) and the Houston Rockets (9-3), who meet Saturday night in Houston. Dallas has the best offense in the league by far, a buzzsaw that scored 140 on the Lakers Friday with ease. In front of them stand the Rockets, the best defensive team in the league so far, anchored by a rejuvenated Dwight Howard. It's the proverbial matchup between the unstoppable force and the immovable object and the winner will end up with the West's third-best record.

Back East, the Cavs will try to right the ship after losing to the Washington Wizards Friday and dropping below .500. Everyone expected Cleveland to struggle out of the gate but the bad performances are piling up and every concern about the team's defensive potential has been proven right so far. The Raptors, meanwhile, lead the East right now with 10 wins and two losses and are the winners of three straight. Both teams played last night but expect them to treat this clash with the sense of urgency reserved for signature games.

Here's your menu for the night:

The appetizer

Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m. ET)

The Cavs need a win right now, not only to solidify their place in the standings, but also to go back to believing it's only a matter of time before they become an elite team. The body language from several players was terrible Friday and another loss could put coach David Blatt in the hot seat. For the Raptors, this game is another chance to prove they are for real, a legitimate threat to come out of the East. There are also a lot of fun individual matchups, like Kyrie Irving vs. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan vs. LeBron James. The stakes are high -- or as high as they can be this early in the season -- and the talent is there for this one to be a fun game.


More on these teams: Raptors HQ Fear the Sword

The main course

Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets (8 p.m. ET)

Can great offense beat great defense? We are about to find out. This game will feature two of the best teams in the league, a couple of would-be contenders who have started the season hot. But the appeal is not limited to the on-court product. There are also entertaining off-court story lines. First we have Chandler Parsons going back to Houston after unraveling the Rockets' plans this past off-season by signing with the Mavs. Then there's the feud between Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Bragging rights are at stake and the winner could be determined by whether or not the Rockets have anyone who can contain Dirk Nowitzki.


More on these teams: Mavs MoneyballThe Dream Shake

The dessert

Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs (8:30 p.m. ET)

The Nets beat the injury-riddled Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night to snap a five-game losing streak, but the game went down to the wire. The Spurs, on the other hand, easily dispatched of the shorthanded Wolves in Minnesota and look to be on the right track after a hesitant beginning of the season, having won three straight. The game itself doesn't promise high scoring or highlights. But it could be one of the last times Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan face each other. Since both teams are on the second game of a back-to-back, it's possible one or both of them don't suit up. If that happens, switch to Pelicans-Jazz to see Anthony Davis going at Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. That should be fun.


More on these teams: NetsDailyPounding the Rock

The leftovers (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers (7 p.m.)

Miami Heat at Orlando Magic (7 p.m.)

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks (7:30 p.m.)

Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves (8 p.m.)

Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks (8:30 p.m.)

New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz (9 p.m.)


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