TONIGHT: Rockets at DALLAS Mavericks When/where: 7 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Center
TV/radio: FSH, ESPN; 610 AM; 850 AM (Spanish)
Key matchup: Erick Dampier vs. Yao Ming. Yao has traditionally scored well against Dampier and has averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds against Dallas this season. The Mavs often use Brandon Bass off the bench to force Yao to defend away from the basket.
Rockets update: The Rockets have won two of the three meetings with the Mavericks this season but have won just four of their past 11 games against Dallas and four of 11 in Dallas. With a win, the Rockets would clinch the Southwest Division title, their first division crown since 1993-94.
Mavericks update: The Mavericks got a last-second jumper from Jason Terry to beat the Timberwolves on Monday, giving them wins in four of their last five games. They are 31-9 in Dallas this season. Dirk Nowitzki has scored at least 20 points in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NBA this season.
When Rockets practice ended Tuesday, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes and Dikembe Mutombo were in an animated argument at the middle of the practice floor.
They downplayed any potential for dissension. Battier said it "was just one of those things in a long season." Hayes called it "just brothers talking, just jabbering. I don't think he (Mutombo) heard anything I said. I didn't hear anything he said."
Rockets coach Rick Adelman, however, said several players were late to practice, inspiring discussion about the importance of "focus" and "preparation."
"This time of year, whether it's being on time or having your full focus on what we're doing, preparation is huge," Adelman said. "I think they were talking about that. We had a couple guys late. Guys were just talking about it. I don't think it was any huge issue. Today was an important day. Thursday is going to be even more important. Preparation is crucial. Everything has to go into what we're doing. There's going to be more film. There's going to be more meetings. There's going to be more everything.
"It's something most of our guys are pretty good (about). It just happened today. One guy who is never late was late. It's not a big issue."
After Monday's home rout of New Orleans, center Yao Ming said finishing the regular season with a win at Dallas tonight would be huge for the Rockets' momentum heading into the postseason.
"From my experience, the last game of the regular season is the first game of the playoffs," Yao said. "Just like you have to prepare yourself, can't play too relaxed and, most important, get mentally ready. The Mavericks are a good team that is still fighting for their seed. They can still move up."
No can do
Though he has been suggesting to Von Wafer that he would get a match-ing Mohawk, Ron Artest now says it isn't going to happen.
"He's going to get a Mohawk," said Wafer, uncertain whether to return to his. "He said he is going to surprise everybody."
Artest said he had considered cutting the Rockets' ?R' back into his hair for the playoffs but chose against it.
I'm going to stay with the same thing that helped us get this far," he said. "I don't want to change up. It's too late."