Nowitzki, Mavericks Breeze Past Rockets
Dallas 103, Houston 76
HOUSTON, Jan. 18 (Ticker) -- Superstar Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks didn't waste any time crushing the Houston Rockets' hopes of an upset.
Nowitzki scored 29 points and Josh Howard added 18 as the Mavericks posted an easy 103-76 victory over the reeling Rockets, who have dropped seven in a row for the second time this season.
"This will be one of the longest trips I've ever taken in my eight years," Nowitzki, who made 10-of-14 shots, including 4-of-4 from the arc. "We were focused and I thought we moved the ball around better than we have in a while."
The Rockets remain one of the NBA's most disappointing teams. Racked by injuries, they are a dismal 3-13 at the Toyota Center, including 1-9 against Western Conference opponents.
Tracy McGrady, a five-time All-Star has missed his fifth straight contest with back spasms as the Rockets fell to an unimpressive 0-13 without him in the lineup.
"The Rockets are really down on their luck with injuries," said Howard, who made 5-of-9 shots. "But you can't make excuses and you have to play the game."
"The Rockets have a lot of guys out, but these kinds of wins don't come easy," Nowitzki said. "You still have to come to play and execute the way you do as if Tracy and everyone else were still out there."
Dallas held a 36-27 advantage with five minutes remaining in the second quarter and extended its lead with a 13-7 surge to close the period. Houston was outscored, 30-20, in the quarter.
"They are very good and they whipped us," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Once the whipping started, I don't think we competed as hard as I would have like to have seen us, but that was after the whipping started taking place."
After intermission, the Mavericks picked up right where they left off, adding to their lead with a 16-5 run capped by Nowitzki's four-point play. The 7-foot All-Star scored 13 points in the third quarter, which ended with Dallas holding an 82-50 bulge.
"It was nice to get the big lead and to spread out the minutes a little bit," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "But we are a flawed basketball team and we are still working through some things. We have to keep working hard and trying to get better."
"The only thing we need to be working on right now is getting stronger and improving our seeding for the playoffs," said Mavericks swingman Jerry Stackhouse, who scored eight points.
Devin Harris scored 16 points and Erick Dampier grabbed eight Rafer Alston and rookie Luther Head added 16 points for the Rockets, who shot just 40 percent (29-of-71).
Houston forward Juwan Howard was held to just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting and was embarrassed by Wednesday's performance.
"We got our butts kicked and it's embarrassing to experience something like that," Howard said. "It's very disappointing for all of us that really care about what's happened to this team. The fans aren't happy, the organization's not happy and each and every guy on this team and the coaches are equally disappointed."