(Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Earl K. Sneed recaps the Mavericks' home win over the Southwest Division rival Houston Rockets, after the defending champions used a second-half comeback to sweep the home-and-home series.
DALLAS — After outlasting their Southwest Division rival, the Houston Rockets, on Saturday night in a 101-99 overtime win, the Dallas Mavericks made it no secret that their eyes are now solely on playoff positioning.
Sitting in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference and just one game ahead of the eighth-place Rockets, the Mavericks looked to better their playoff position while finishing the home-and-home series Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Still playing short-handed without starting center Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) and new addition Delonte West (fractured right ring finger), the Mavs looked to treat their fans to a show. The defending champions also went in search of a welcomed home win after having their five-game home win streak snapped last Wednesday by a 109-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
And after needing an overtime period to take down their divisional foe three night prior, the Mavericks (29-22) made it easier the second time around, using a second-half rally to march to a 90-81 victory.
“We’re showing some good signs in some areas,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of the win. “Our second half was tremendous; it was playoff caliber. Our first half, we played like a lottery-type team; we were not solid, we were not together. And so, we’ve got work to do and I don’t mind that. I like a situation where you’ve got some upside and room to improve. That means we’ve got to keep pushing.”
But the Mavs would face some early adversity after back-to-back threes by Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee boosted the Rockets (27-24) to a 15-4 lead out of the gates. The Dallas deficit would reach as much as 16 in the opening period as the Mavs’ turnovers contributed to their disadvantage.
And after the Rockets’ 12-for-20 shooting bettered the Mavericks’ 8-of-18 in the period, Houston emerged with a 30-19 lead after one.
Behind the end-to-end play of Lamar Odom off the bench and instant offense of Rodrigue Beaubois, the Mavs looked to rally early in the second quarter while leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki battled a 0-for-5 start.
“You know, we were down quick 12 or 14 points and the bench really came in and changed the game for us,” Nowitzki explained. “Picked up the energy, got the crowd involved and got some stops.”
But after a 9-0 Dallas run got the Mavs within four, Chandler Parsons and Luis Scola rallied the Rockets right back to regain a double-digit lead.
Still, after a 3-pointer by point guard Jason Kidd and a driving score by Nowitzki, the Mavs headed into the locker room down just three, 49-46, at the midway mark.
Outshot through two quarters, 50 percent to 48.5 percent, the Mavs rallied around their 20-17 rebounding edge and 24-14 advantage in points in the paint to stay in the game. The Mavs also utilized Nowitzki’s 9-of-10 free throw shooting to attempt 12 more foul shots.
Despite a quick score by Nowitzki to get the Mavs within one as the third period got underway, both teams would go on to struggle offensively as the Rockets went over four minutes without a score. That’s when reserve guard Jason Terry took matters into his own hands, scoring seven straight points to give the Mavs the lead on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye.
“We just needed a spark. We needed some energy. I saw us kind of lagging there and I saw an opportunity for us to kind of take control of the game. I just went for it,” Terry explained.
Terry then played the role of facilitator, feeding backup big man Brandan Wright on the break for a slam in the midst of a 16-2 Dallas run. And with a scrambling defense suffocating the Rockets to just 12 points in the third, the Mavs entered the final period with a 69-61 lead.
With Odom leading the offensive surge, it wouldn’t take long for the Mavs to open up a double-digit lead. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense continued to keep the Rockets quiet at the other end of the floor as Beaubois did the honors of putting the finishing touches on the win with his outside shooting.
“This is another very good win against a team that’s a fighting team,” Carlisle concluded. “They came at us from the very beginning of the game with a nasty toughness about them and we had to really respond, not only by putting the ball in the basket but by being patient and deliberate to a certain degree and by chipping away and working the game in the second half.”
Leading the Mavs was Nowitzki, who battled back from the sluggish start to score a team-high 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting and 1-for-12 at the foul line.
“I was cold in the first half and I was could in the second half. That was great,” Nowitzki joked. “No, but I was able to get to the line some and sometimes when you don’t have a rhythm, I think it slowed the game down for us a little bit. Got to the line, got some easy points and that helped us.”
The 7-footer was the only Mavs starter, however, as Beaubois recorded 14 points, Wright pitched in 13 points and Terry added 12 of his own off the bench.
“We got off to a very poor start. They’re a high-energy team and they came out with a lot of force and we just didn’t play well. Odom, Terry, Wright … Beaubois had a very impactful game. All of those guys did and they were the difference,” Carlisle said with high praise for his reserves.
“The bench was tremendous,” Terry echoed. “It’s gonna be key for us down the stretch to continue to have consistent effort off the bench and offensively especially.”
Scola led four Rockets in double figures with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 from the field to go along with eight rebounds. Both teams finished with 13 turnovers. But the Mavericks finished the night outshooting the Rockets, 46.6 percent to 41.8 percent, in addition to a 43-39 rebounding edge and 44-34 margin in points in the paint.
The Mavericks will travel to Florida for a two-game road trip beginning with a return to Miami, the site of their NBA Finals Game 6 victory to capture the title, in a rematch of the championship series. The Mavs will also try to avenge a 105-94 home loss to the Heat on Christmas Day.
That game will air Thursday night nationally on TNT at 7 p.m. CT.
“We’ve got to great ready to lace it up and come at them,” Carlisle said of the highly-anticipated matchup. “We’ve got to think back to Christmas Day, because that was a miserable experience for us. That was really tough. I was watching some of it today. They played terrific and they were great that day and we weren’t. We’re going to have to play a lot better.”
“The way they put a number on us (Christmas Day), you know, we don’t forget,” Terry added. “We’ll see what happens, but I can only imagine, it’s gonna be fierce. You know, they’re coming off of two losses and we’ve still got that taste in out mouth from opening night.”
Note: The team returns to the American Airlines Center next Monday night when it plays host to the Los Angeles Clippers. The two teams are 1-1 in the season series with both winning on their own home floor. That game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Single-game tickets are on sale and available at the American Airlines Center North Box Office, online at mavs.com, via phone by calling 214-747-MAVS or 1-800-4NBA-TIX and all Ticketmaster outlets (Fiesta Grocery Stores, Wal-Mart, Simon Mall in Garland and the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano).