HOUSTON, April 28 (Ticker)
-- Staring an insurmountable deficit in the
face, the Dallas Mavericks looked to their defense.
Shutting down Tracy McGrady
and Yao Ming
in the fourth quarter,
the Mavericks used a 20-0 run and climbed back into their
Western Conference first-round series against the Houston
Rockets with a 106-102 victory.
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Entering the postseason among the NBA's hottest teams, the
fourth-seeded Mavericks played poorly in surprisingly losing the
first two games of the series at home. They were looking at a
3-0 series deficit, something no team in NBA history has
All-Star Dirk Nowitzki
and Michael Finley
both struggled badly
in the first two games, while McGrady clearly was the star. Yao
also came up big in Game Two on Monday, scoring 33 points on
Nowitzki and Finley had their best games in this one, but it was
the defense - something that has become better under new coach
- that lifted the Mavericks back into the series
and continued the home-court disadvantage.
"We had two of our worst games, defensively, to start this
series," Johnson said. "Our captains (Finley and Nowitzki)
stepped up big tonight."
"The biggest key was defense, and we wanted to contest every
shot they put up," Finley said. "It's a formidable position we
have put ourselves in. Our defensive effort that we had tonight
was needed for us to continue the series."
After a Mike James
layup with 9:31 remaining gave the Rockets an
88-80 lead, they were held without a point for the next 6:47.
Finley and Nowitzki scored the first seven points of the surge
and Jason Terry
hit two free throws with six minutes remaining
to give the Mavericks the lead for good. Josh Howard
burst with a three-point play and jumper, giving Dallas a 100-88
lead with 2:58 to go.
finally ended the Rockets' drought with a 3-pointer 14
Nowitzki scored 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting and Finley added
20 for the Mavericks, who are trying to become only the third
team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after dropping
the first two games at home.
In the first two games, Nowitzki made just 13-of-41 shots while
Finley scored a total of 15 points.
"I had a tough first two games," Nowitzki said. "I've got to
stay aggressive for us to be successful. In the first two
games, I never found my rhythm. Today was a lot better. When
my confidence is up, I'm a different player."
The Mavericks also received a boost off the bench from
, who scored 18 points in 37 minutes. Dallas' bench
did receive a blow when versatile forward Keith Van Horn
down with what appeared to be a serious left ankle injury early
in the second quarter.
McGrady scored 23 points in the first three quarters but was
limited to just one basket in the fourth, a 3-pointer with 15
seconds left when the outcome already was decided. He finished
with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
"Obviously it was very disappointing on our part," McGrady said.
"We pretty much had the game under control in the fourth
quarter and for some reason we stopped executing. We didn't play
defense, they were making shots."
Yao also was a non-factor in the fourth quarter, scoring his
only points with seven-tenths of a second remaining. He battled
early foul trouble and collected 15 points and 10 rebounds.
In each of the first two games, the Rockets played well in the
fourth quarter, shooting 59 percent and 69 percent. In the
final period of this one, they shot just 28 percent (5-of-18).
"We had a lead in the fourth quarter at home, and we got
hammered," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy
said. "That says a lot
about Dallas, and I'm sure as we analyze and watch, we'll be
disappointed in ourselves."
Sura had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who host
Game Four on Saturday.
"We just didn't play well enough to win," Sura said. "When they
were down 10, they kept fighting. They got themselves back in
it. There's no question about it."
Showing some urgency, the Mavericks played well early and scored
the final eight points of the first quarter to take a 32-27
lead. Stackhouse's two free throws with 7:18 left in the second
quarter gave the Mavericks their biggest lead of the half at
Nowitzki scored 14 points and Finley 11 in the half as Dallas
settled for a 54-49 advantage at the break.
McGrady made a jumper and layup to start the third quarter,
triggering a 21-6 surge that David Wesley
capped with a
3-pointer, giving the Rockets a 70-60 lead with 5:39 remaining
in the period.
Wesley, who scored a total of 12 points in the first two games,
netted nine of his 17 in the third quarter that ended with
Houston holding an 83-78 lead.
Terry added 13 points and six assists for the Mavs, who shot
48.5 percent (33-of-68) and made 32-of-37 free throws. Houston
shot 45 percent (36-of-80) and went 13-of-25 from the arc.