Recap: Mavs streak to 4th straight W after holding off slumping Rockets
Recap: Rockets 100 at Mavericks 105
Mavs streak to 4th straight W after holding off slumping Rockets
After catching both Memphis and Minnesota on the second night of back-to-back to begin their four-game homestand, the Dallas Mavericks once again looked to feast on a team traveling to the American Airlines Center in that same position Wednesday night.
Hoping to extend their season best-tying three-game winning streak with a ninth consecutive win over the visiting Houston team, the Mavericks again faced an opponent on the back end of consecutive game nights less than 24 hours after the Rockets fell to a fourth straight loss at home following a 117-109 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Mavs also hoped to replicate a 116-109 road win over the Rockets back on Dec. 8, trying not to get caught looking ahead to Friday night’s nationally-televised matchup against the reigning Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unlike the previous two games, however, the Mavericks (17-23) would be pushed to the brink by the visiting team after jumping out to a double-digit lead. And with clutch play coming down the stretch, the Mavs notched their fourth straight win for the first time this season while remaining unbeaten on their homestand, claiming a 105-100 victory to continue their dominance over the in-state rival.
“It was good,” leading scorer O.J. Mayo said of the win. “Another good win for us, keeping the streak alive for us here at home. Obviously we had another opponent here on a back-to-back, so we came and handled our business.”
After Mayo’s season-high 40 points in the first meeting between the two teams just bettered Rockets guard James Harden’s 39 points at the other end of the floor, the two scoring assassins again looked to assert themselves early in the opening period Wednesday night. But it would be four-time All-Star Shawn Marion, who missed that December matchup, that would carry the Mavs’ offensive attack in the early going.
However, the Mavs would find themselves down midway through the first quarter before a transition score by point guard Darren Collison was followed by a coast-to-coast sequence by Mayo to ignite a 19-0 Dallas run. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense held the NBA’s highest-scoring team in check, containing the Rockets (21-19) to a season low-tying first-quarter scoring outlet by an opponent this season to take a 29-18 advantage into the second stanza.
Opening the second with the first six points, the Rockets launched themselves back into the game before a much-needed and-one score by Mavs rookie Jae Crowder settled down the home team. The Mavs then pushed the lead out to as much as 15 before the Rockets again charged back with an 8-0 run.
And with Mayo and 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki a combined 5-of-17 from the field, the Mavericks took just a 52-44 lead into the halftime intermission.
With their top two scoring options both struggling from the field, the Mavs shot just 38 percent as a team through the first two quarter compared to Houston’s 35.7 percent while Harden hit just 2-of-11 at the other end. The Mavs, meanwhile, jumped out to the lead despite getting outrebounded in the first 24 minutes of action, 33-22, scoring 17 points off the Rockets’ 12 turnovers in the first half.
But with his shot not falling, Harden began to attack the rim while earning frequent trips to the foul line to bring the Rockets within two. Still, with new addition Mike James finding Nowitzki in the corner for a 3-pointer just before the close of the quarter, the Mavs managed to steal away the momentum by taking an 80-73 edge into the final period.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle continued to stick with the 37-year-old veteran point guard as the final period began with James feeding backup big man Elton Brand inside for an and-one score before feeding the rookie Crowder for a corner 3 to go back up double figures.
“I was able to penetrate and find open guys and guys were knocking down shots,” James simply said. “Sometimes that’s better than your shot going in, so the main thing is making plays. Guys were feeding off of my energy and just continued to keep playing hard defense.”
Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin then did his best to keep his team in the game with back-to-back driving scores to bring the visitors within five, 93-88, with 5:46 remaining.
After a foul by eight-time All-Star Vince Carter on Harden’s 3 attempt translated to a 2-of-3 trip to the foul line, the lead was down to just three. Lin followed that with a 3-pointer to make it just a one-point game before Nowitzki’s jumper forced a Houston timeout with 2:31 still on the clock.
“That’s what’s disappointing. You know, we got comfortable up 15. Guys came off the bench, a few turnovers and you can’t do that with the No. 1 offensive team. They average 105 points a game, so they hit shots and they were right back in it really fast. I’m sure we’ll watch some tape and we’ll get better from it,” Brand said.
“I don’t want to say we got comfortable, but you could kind of tell that guys weren’t necessarily playing at the level that they need to play at and that’s something that we can’t have,” Collison added. “You know, if we want to be a team that in the future we’re trying to be, we’ve got to push that lead up more. We kind of gave them hope at the end. They hit some tough shots, they got some foul calls at the end, went to the line and next thing you know we’re by one and we’ve got to make some plays down the stretch. That’s something that we can’t have.”
Two free throws by Harden with 2:27 remaining again made it just a one-point edge. And after Collison was called for a foul that sent Lin to the line, the game was knotted at 97-all when the Rockets’ lead guard made 1-of-2 at the charity stripe with 1:52 left.
But the Dallas defense would stiffen with Brand meeting Harden at the rim for a big-time block, leading to Mayo’s attacking drive and subsequent free throws to go up two with 1:02 remaining.
“You know, we’ve got to do whatever it takes to win and I knew he was going to drive strong left,” Brand said of the key defensive stand with his rejection on a hard-charging Harden. “He’s one of the best finishers in the league, so I just tried to do whatever I could to get a stop right there because we needed a stop. We lost the momentum, so I got my hand on the ball.”
After a foul called on James, Lin would immediately have a chance to tie the game. However, Lin missed the first shot at the line before cashing in on the second, answered by Nowitzki’s pair at the line to extend the lead to three with 25.1 seconds left following a defensive rebound and fifth foul of the night on Harden.
Dahntay Jones’ two free throws with 14.1 seconds left then put the finishing touches on the Mavs’ first four-game winning streak of the season.
“Our defense was poor. We kept putting them on the free throw line, but we made plays. Elton’s block was huge and Dirk’s rebound where he got fouled and had two free throws was big, then we got one or two other stops. I thought Mike James in the last three minutes gave us more of a physical presence in there guarding Lin. One of those plays where there was a foul called, I thought [James] made a pretty good play on the ball. We did what we needed to do to win,” Carlisle concluded.
Scoring 10 points in the final quarter, Nowitzki finished with a team-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds.
“I think that three at the end of the third really helped me get my rhythm,” Nowitzki said of his closing ability. “I thought Mike James really did a good job there penetrating and my man left me on the strong side corner. That was definitely a shot I needed to get going and find my rhythm. Sometimes all you need is to see the ball go through the hoop one time and after that I stayed aggressive. We ran some plays where I got open and actually got a little separation, so it was good but I’m going to keep on working and still keep pushing.”
Matching Marion’s 18 points, Mayo also collected six rebounds and dished out eight assists. Off the bench, Brand pitched in 11 points — grabbing down 10 rebounds as well for his 400th career double-double — and Crowder matched Collison’s 10 points.
“It was a collective team effort,” Marion said. “We did what we needed to do. We took them out of a lot of things. You know, they made a run. They’re a talented team and they’ve got a lot of weapons out there and they hit some big shots when they needed to and were able to get the lead back down. But for the most part we were able to close it out.”
Harden finished with 20 points on just 5-of-23 shooting and Lin added 19 points as four Rockets scored in double figures. The Rockets, however, outshot the Mavericks on the night, 39.3 percent to 38.4 percent, while collecting a 52-47 rebounding edge, but couldn’t overcome 24 Dallas points scored off 16 Houston turnovers.
The Mavericks will now return to action at the American Airlines Center for the finale of their four-game homestand Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder leads the season series 1-0 after downing the Mavs in a 111-105 overtime road loss on Dec. 27. The game will air locally at 8:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.