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Mavs Rally Past Rockets

December 09, 2012 2:03 am EST

HOUSTON - In a game that seemed to feature more manic, wild mood swings than a lovesick teen, the Dallas Mavericks left the Rockets feeling jaded, jilted and alone Saturday night following a bitterly disappointing 116-109 defeat.

The loss ruined the return of Houston’s head coach Kevin McHale, squandered a tremendous performance from James Harden and also wasted a remarkable Rockets’ rally that saw them entirely erase a 19-point first quarter deficit by halftime.

Not to be outdone, however, Dallas staged its own impressive comeback thanks to an equally scorching star performer, riding the red-hot shooting of O.J. Mayo to transform an 11-point fourth quarter deficit into victory, one which simultaneously snapped Houston’s six-game home winning streak while prolonging the Mavericks’ recent mastery over the Rockets to eight consecutive games.

In the end, Houston was ultimately undone by perhaps its two most familiar bugaboos: turnovers and defense, with the latter proving to be especially problematic these days. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times – 13 of which came in the second half – something that most definitely did not help their cause while they were unsuccessfully attempting to put Dallas away. That said, Houston’s turnover numbers are always going to be somewhat inflated due to the sheer pace at which they play.

The team’s issues on defense, however, are rapidly starting to represent the biggest impediment standing between the Rockets and their goal of becoming a playoff team. It was one thing to get picked apart by the offensive machine that is the San Antonio Spurs, as Houston was the night before; quite another to concede 71 points combined in quarters one and four to a Dallas team that entered Saturday’s contest ranked 20th overall in offensive efficiency.

The Mavericks shot 68 percent from the field during the opening frame, putting the Rockets in a hole at least 17 points deep for the third consecutive contest. And down the stretch Houston’s defense was little better, with communication breakdowns proving especially disastrous in the final minute.

The first occurred with the Rockets down by just two and Dallas inbounding the ball beneath its own hoop with just 2.6 seconds left on the shot clock. Instead of forcing the Mavericks to take a tough shot, however, a blown assignment – the Rockets were instructed to switch everything, but Chandler Parsons and Toney Douglas got their signals crossed – allowed Mayo to get a wide open look from beyond the arc which he promptly drained. About ten seconds later, following a Patrick Patterson layup, Houston’s coaching staff screamed from the sidelines for a quick foul to extend the game. Instead, Mayo strolled down the length of the court untouched for a layup, matching his career-high of 40 points and effectively ending any hopes the Rockets had of one final rally.

It was the kind of defeat that prompts a slew of questions while providing little in the way of answers unless one (rightfully) acknowledges that the vast majority of the Rockets’ woes are, much like the aforementioned lovelorn teen, trials of youth. Study the history of the youngest teams in the NBA year-in and year-out and it won’t take long to figure out that turnovers and leaky defense tend to be their trademarks. These aren’t excuses; it’s just reality.

To get where they want to be, then, the Rockets are going to have to grow up in a hurry. It will require displaying a wisdom and maturity beyond their years, and an ability to overcome an ample amount of adversity along the way. The good news: they’ve already shown themselves to be plenty resilient and this team has made significant strides since the first few weeks of the season – not surprising given that this roster had all of two practices together before the season began.

Saturday night showed there’s still so much further to go which, again, shouldn’t be much of a newsflash to those who have paid close attention to this team’s journey. What was relevant after game one of the season rings just as true today: there will be ups and downs and highs and lows aplenty with this team. Chemistry and consistency are not attributes that materialize overnight. And even when they do appear, they can be as fickle and as fleeting as a double-digit fourth quarter lead.

And 1s: James Harden put together a first half to remember, racking up 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists heading into halftime. During the break, however, a right ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter began to tighten up on him and the adverse effects showed in the second half when he only scored nine more points the rest of the way and turned the ball over five times. After the game, Harden could be seen limping considerably in the locker room but he said he’ll get treatment in hopes that he’ll be much improved and good to go when San Antonio comes to town for another Southwest Division showdown Monday night.



(what went wrong on inbounds play to Mayo?)

We were going to switch everything, and they set a pin-down that freed up Mayo, who popped back and got a wide-open look and knocked it down. We were supposed to switch everything and just didn’t.

(did you want to foul after the Patterson basket with 27 seconds left?)

Yes, we were screaming at them to foul. I don’t know, everybody was thinking someone else was going to do it, I guess. That’s unacceptable. We had a good rhythm going in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to be able to get those games. We’ve got to be able to take those games home. That was a tough, tough loss, especially after the massive hole we dug out of.

We’ve got to get better defensively. We’ve slipped defensively. We make too many mistakes. If we’re switching we switch to the wrong angle. We were supposed to have a couple coverages that we’ve gone over it and we didn’t do the coverage that we said we were going to do … we’ve got to be better than that.

(on Harden)

James’ foot was starting to bother him. I tried to give him a little rest but he said it started stiffening up on him. He’s a tremendous, tremendous player, but right now we’re honestly probably relying on him a little bit too much. I’ve felt this all year long: we’ve got to get more movement; we’ll have leads and it seems like our offense gets stagnant. We’ve got to fight through that and we can’t play so late in the clock. We’ve got to keep our push going and our pace, and we’re a much better team when we’re pushing it.

(on Lin)

Jeremy is going to be fine. The game tonight, I thought that Toney was giving us some good minutes and he was kind of pushing up and was one of our guys who I thought was pretty active and could maybe slow down Mayo. But Jeremy’s going to be fine. He’s going to play more than that.

(On the Rockets going small) “We kind of went small after the start they (Dallas) had. They only played (Chris) Kaman about 18 minutes and they played (Elton) Brand 14 minutes so they were small. I didn't mind what we were doing. I thought we had some good activity with our small group. They just played a small lineup and it was hard for us to stay big.”

(On the performance of the coaching staff during his absence) “Very good. I thought the coaching staff did a tremendous job. We had talked about doing a lot of stuff. It was different being out there again. I had been away for a long time and we had put in some stuff. I've got to get caught up too so these next few days will be good for us. This was just one of those games where you can't have 11-point leads at home and not be able to close it out.”


(on the inbounds play to Mayo)

It was me and Toney, it was just a complete miscommunication. With two seconds left we should always switch everything and I didn’t even see his man down there and I just got stuck out there and nobody talked and there was no communication on the switch.

(what’s holding back this team defensively?)

Just everything, man. Communication, transition defense, help-side defense. Just everything. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our offense is fine, we can’t worry about that. We have to be able to win games when we shoot the ball poorly and we can’t score 109 points and lose a game – that’s just inexcusable and we have to fix that. It starts with our starting five getting off to terrible starts.

(this game in a row falling behind by at least 17 points. Any thoughts as to why?)

No, I wish I did. It’s inexcusable. We can’t keep fighting back like this against good teams. I’m even shocked that we’re in the game after getting down that much. I guess it’s good because we never give up and we show resiliency but it’s impossible to win games like that.


(On the Rockets defensive breakdown allowing O.J. Mayo to hit a 3-point shot) “I was guarding Mayo. He was trying to post me up in the corner. I got screened by Vince Carter. That's what happened.”

(On the emotion of having Kevin McHale return) “There were a lot of emotions. It feels good to have him back on the bench. He always keeps us positive when we are facing adversity or when things aren't going right for us. We came back and we still had a chance to win the game. Tonight, there was some miscommunication stuff.”


(On what went wrong) “We got stagnant on offense late in the game and they (Dallas) made some big shots.”

(On the Rockets getting off to a slow start) “I don't know what it is. It's kind of been a problem for us having to climb back into games. Sometimes we do it but we can't do that all the time because there are going to be nights like this where we wear ourselves out. In the fourth quarter, teams make shots on us. We have to do a better job, especially the first unit of coming out strong.”


(On why the Rockets had a slow start) “I have no idea really. It seemed like earlier in the year our defense is what fielded us but I think now I don't want to say that we are concentrating more on offense but our offense is fine. It's just our defense. It always seems to be the first or the third quarter that seems to get us off on the wrong foot and have us start off with large deficits then we have to work our way back to the game. Tonight it was the first quarter. We gave up too many points throughout the whole game. We were fighting and then we got the lead and we couldn't maintain it.”

(On why the Rockets couldn't maintain the lead) “It is probably a mixture of everything. Probably not calling out the coverage earlier enough or loud enough for each other to hear it. Not helping each other or not being in the right place in the right time or not being focused enough or not being tough enough, you just can't put it on one thing.“


(On what he thinks the Rockets need to do to play better) “Maybe play harder and maybe play better overall on offense and defense and make more plays on both ends of the floor. I guess be more efficient.”

(On the Rockets slow start at beginning of games) “I just think that coming out of the gate we as a collective unit, as a starting unit, we don't have the energy that we need to have. We don't have that nastiness, that attitude.

It’s just something that us five who started the game need to have that. That starts with me at the top, picking the ball up and pressuring the ball and playing solid defense with high energy. From that end, I’ll take responsibility because it does start with me.

(disappointing to play 18 minutes?)

That’s a coach thing and that’s their decision and I totally respect that. We’re all in it together and we’re on a team. Everybody goes through their own ups and downs. We lost a game tonight and that needs to be the focus for all of us.

(how disappointing to not get this win for Coach Mac tonight?)

It’s always disappointing (to lose). It was great to see him and have him back for sure. This is definitely one where we were right there and could have had.


(On O.J. Mayo’s performance) “Unbelievable performance. What he’s showing over the first twenty games is that, you know, he has the ability to carry a team at times and it was really impressive tonight. Showing a strong-willed mentality and he’s really hungry to win.”

(On the game) “You talk about an emotional rollercoaster of a game and it doesn’t get any crazier than this one. Go up 19, go down 11 or whatever it was and the guys hung in and kept believing. We felt like if we could guard the pick and roll we’d have a chance and we were able to adjust a little bit and they missed some and we made, so were getting out of here happy.”


(On his hot hand) “Just focused on time and scoring. Wanted to get the win, we need they had a tough game last night. Trying to get to .500 was very important for us and we got there and we have keep continuing to build off of that.”

(On the fourth quarter) “DC (Darren Collison) was making plays, VC (Vince Carter) and Fish (Derek Fisher) but I really wanted to focus on the defensive end and make stops. The team was rolling offensively, so I tried to preserve energy and lock up on defense a little bit.”

(On his flow of the game) “Yeah, I was cool, just trying to take my time and make the right basketball plays.


(On the game) “We didn’t pay attention to things we needed to on defense. We went into a little bit of a hole but we picked it up in the second half and got back to what we needed to do to get the lead.”

(On O.J. Mayo) “We had to ride him. He was hot, he was making good shots and he had a mismatch. Toney Douglas couldn’t really guard him, James Harden couldn’t really guard him so we had to keep feeding him and letting him make plays.”

(On the road trip) “We had to make sure we took care of our business and take advantage of this situation coming off a back to back and now we have to move on and set another goal and set another goal and try to accomplish that.”


(On the second half defense) “We had to get locked in again the on defensive end. I think it’s typical for teams when you have a big first quarter to ease off the gas on the defensive end because points are coming so easily. That’s what happened with us; we lost our defensive principles because we were scoring so many points in the first quarter. Once you let a NBA team get going, they’re confidence got up, they’re on their home court and so in this second half I thought we figured out how to do a better job covering the pick and roll. We went to a smaller line up, got more active and did better on rotations.”

(On O.J. Mayo and his big shots) “His confidence level right now and his belief in himself and his understanding his role for this team. Right now with Dirk (Nowitzki) being out, and tonight with Shawn (Marion), O.J. really took on the role of basically putting the team on his back and he’s playing at an unbelievable level right now and he should be thankful for having this opportunity right now.”


The Rockets returned from 19 points down in the first half to take a 66-63 lead into halftime, but went on to get outscored by a 32-20 count in the fourth quarter en route to a 116-109 loss to the Mavericks tonight.

Houston’s loss tonight snapped its six-game home winning streak (11/14/12-12/4/12).

The Mavericks have now won the last eight meetings (11/29/10-12/8/12), extending Houston’s longest losing streak in the history of this series.

Houston scored a season-high 42 second-quarter points tonight, marking the first 40-point quarter by the Rockets since netting 42 points in the second stanza vs. Toronto (12/31/10).

The Rockets (66) and Mavericks (63) combined for 129 first-half points tonight. Overall, it marked Houston’s seventh 60-point half of the season.

Houston set season highs in free throws made (27) and attempted (38) tonight, surpassing the previous highs of 26 free throws made (done twice) and 33 free throws attempted (11/12/12 vs. Miami).

James Harden finished with 39 points (10-17 FG, 4-9 3FG, 15-16 FT), a game-high nine assists, six rebounds and two steals tonight, marking his fifth 30-point performance of the season (Rockets record: 4-1). Harden actually notched 30 points (8-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 11-11 FT) in the first half alone. It marked the first 30-point half by a Rockets player since Kevin Martin netted 30 in the second half at Denver (2/7/11).

Chandler Parsons posted 18 points (6-17 FG, 5-6 FT), a game-high 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals tonight. Parsons marked his fifth double-double of the season.

Toney Douglas came off the bench with another 13 points (3-6 3FG) and three assists tonight. Douglas has now reached double-figure scoring in a season-high three consecutive games (12/4/12-12/8/12).

O.J. Mayo tied his career best in scoring with a game-high 40 points (15-26 FG, 6-9 3FG, 4-4 FT) to go along with a season-high eight boards tonight. Mayo, who now has three games with 30-plus points this season, originally set his career high with 40 points at Denver (11/1/09). He actually scored 16 points (6-9 FG, 2-2 3FG, 2-2 FT) in the decisive fourth quarter.

Chris Kaman recorded 20 points (9-13 FG) and seven rebounds tonight. Kaman, who netted a season-high 23 points (10-12 FG, 3-3 FT) vs. Washington (11/14/12), now has four 20-plus point performances on the season.

Vince Carter scored five of his12 points (5-12 FG) in Dallas’ fourth-quarter comeback tonight.