Recap: Mavs drop first game in home-and-home series vs. Rockets
Recap: Mavericks 103 at Rockets 136
Mavs drop first game in home-and-home series vs. Rockets
DALLAS — Entering Sunday’s matchup in Houston five games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks knew they had plenty of work to do over the final 24 games of the regular season as they hope to continue the franchise’s 12-year stretch of consecutive postseasons.
Still, with plenty of ground for his team to make up, coach Rick Carlisle admitted to reporters before the matchup that the Mavs’ approach didn’t change despite the importance of a pivotal home-and-home series against the Rockets that concludes in Dallas on Wednesday.
“Well, we haven’t had a game that isn’t important since November, so nothing’s really changed,” Carlisle said. “A lot of attention is on this because it’s two back-to-back games, and so it’s kind of like a playoff series. Hey, we’re scratching and clawing, and that’s how we’re going to play this game. I’m sure they’re going to feel the same way about it, and so that’s where we’re at.”
Looking to build off Friday’s 98-90 win in Brooklyn to move to 1-1 on their three-game road trip, the Mavericks then stepped into the Toyota Center hoping to continue their nine-game winning streak over the Rockets by moving to 3-0 this season against the in-state foe. Carlisle and the Mavericks also attempted to shrink the separation between the two squads in the standings before returning home for yet another significant showdown between the Southwest Division rivals.
But, instead of drawing closer to the Rockets (33-28) in the standings, the Mavericks (26-33) would further handicap themselves, falling to Houston for the first time in the last 10 outings between the two teams after a 136-103 defeat.
However, the night would begin by leaning in the Mavs’ favor.
Going inside frequently to center Chris Kaman, who made his third straight start, the Mavericks tried to get off to a fast beginning to the night. Mavericks leading scorer O.J. Mayo then began to go to work as he matched James Harden basket for basket in the early going, reminiscent of when the two sharpshooters combined to score 79 points in the Mavs’ 116-109 road win on Dec. 8.
The trio of Mayo, Kaman and four-time All-Star Shawn Marion then combined to score 20 points in the opening period while the Mavs connected on 5 of 10 from behind the 3-point arc to take a 33-31 edge into the second stanza.
Getting a lift from the backup duo of point guard Mike James and sixth man Vince Carter off the bench, the Mavs began to gain some separation between the two squads as the second quarter got underway. James then caught fire from the outside while moving into double figures, lifting the Mavs to as much as a nine-point lead.
Carter and rookie Jae Crowder then lent James helping hands to try to keep the Rockets at bay. However, led by point guard Jeremy Lin and forward Chandler Parsons, the home team regained control while assuming the lead. Meanwhile, frustration got the better of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, who was assessed a technical foul after being charged with an offensive foul with 38.9 seconds remaining in the half.
The Rockets then proceeded to take a 64-61 advantage into the intermission after Nowitzki got his revenge with a jumper just before the close of the half.
“We didn’t do a good job closing out the half. We had a nine-point lead and that’s where in this league you have to put teams down. We didn’t do that,” Kaman later admitted.
Led by Mayo’s 12 points and James’ 11 points off the bench on a combined 8-of-15 shooting, the Mavs found themselves down three at the break while the Rockets’ 55.8 percent from the field bettered Dallas’ 53.5 percent. Parsons, meanwhile, led all scorers at the midway mark with 18 points to along with Lin’s 17 points and seven assists.
“I thought we played well offensively in the first half, but we were still down. Way too many points and way too easy. And then in the third quarter they still scored at the same clip and they got into us a little more,” Nowitzki foreshadowed.
Coming out of the locker room, the Mavericks would immediately take a hit as Mayo was forced to sit following his fourth foul of the night with 10:53 left in the third quarter. Parsons then continued to torment the Dallas defense after going 7 for 7 from the floor in the first half, connecting on his first shot in the third from behind the arc to force a timeout by Carlisle with the Mavs down 72-61 with 9:29 left in the period.
The Mavs’ turnovers and miscues would then continue to pile up as Parsons remained perfect from the floor until finally missing on his 13th attempt of the night. And after the Rockets surged ahead by much as 31, the home team took a 108-78 margin into the final 12 minutes of play.
“In the first half we made some mistakes, but the game was close and we had leads. The third quarter was ugly and I don’t have a good explanation for it other than they picked up their game and we didn’t match it,” Carlisle said after getting outscored 44-17 in the period. “You’ve got to give them credit, but this is one of those situations where you’ve got to step up to the challenge and we just didn’t do it.”
He added: “We fought hard in the first half and the third quarter we didn’t. We didn’t fight hard enough, and that was the difference in the game.”
Switching to a three-guard lineup of point guard Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois and Mayo to open the fourth, Carlisle looked to speed up the tempo while making a run. But Parson’s sixth make from behind the 3-point line would give the Rockets a 114-83 lead with 8:34 remaining before Carlisle conceded the loss by clearing his bench and pulling his key contributors coming out of a timeout.
Both teams’ reserves then finished out the rest of the night — highlighted by Mavs third-year guard Dominique Jones’ emphatic transition slam — as the Rockets’ lead eventually reached 37 before the final buzzer.
Battling foul trouble all night long, Mayo led the Mavs with 18 points on 6 of 9 from the floor and 3 of 3 from behind the arc. Marion added 14 points to go along with eight rebounds, while Carter and backup big man Brandan Wright both pitched in 12 points and James added 11 off the bench.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki finished the night 2 of 8 from the field for just eight points.
“They’re going to make other guys make plays, and everything I get I’m going to have to work for. I still should have made some of those shots I took in the second half,” Nowitzki said.
Hitting 12 of his 13 shots and going 6 of 7 from 3-point range, Parsons led all scorers with a career-high 32 points. Harden and Lin also registered 21 points apiece as the Rockets finished the game outshooting the Mavericks, 57.5 percent to 47.5 percent, while hitting 14 of 34 from long range as a team.
“The problem is we couldn’t guard these guys,” Carlisle explained. “You know, we didn’t guard them and that’s got to change before Wednesday.”
Sprinting to the win with a 36-18 advantage in fast-break points, Houston also collected a 54-44 edge in points in the paint. The Rockets converted the Mavs’ 18 turnovers into 32 points at the other end of the floor as well, allowing just 10 points off their 13 giveaways while claiming a 45-32 rebounding advantage.
“Plain and simple, it was the turnovers. You know, our turnovers led to their easy shots, their easy 3s, layups, the whole nine. You can’t play like that if you’re trying to make the playoffs,” Carter matter-of-factly said.
“They definitely kicked our [tail] tonight, so I guess going back home Wednesday is a game we look forward to,” Mayo added. “We got our [tail] kicked, so any competitor is going to come to practice tomorrow and get after it. You know, we’re lucky we get to play the team that kicked our [tail] tonight on Wednesday. So, if you’re a competitor, you’ve got to bring it.”
Note The Mavericks will now head home for two days of practice before hosting the Rockets on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center. The Mavs still lead the season series 2-1. The game will air locally at 7:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
“You know, we’ve got two days to do better and that’s what we’re going to have to do. … We’ve got to get a [heck] of a lot better before Wednesday,” Carlisle concluded. “We didn’t play well and I’m disappointed, and all the guys in (the locker room) are disappointed, too. We’ve got two days to fix it, and this is a good team that we’re playing, so it’s going to be work.”
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