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Tuesday April 12, 2011 1:11 AM

Mavs Top Rockets In OT

Dallas completes season sweep by knocking off Houston 98-91 in overtime

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com

HOUSTON - So close.

It just sort of sums up this Rockets’ season, doesn’t it?

So close to so many wins that somehow turned into losses. So close to an improbable playoff berth after a stunning six-week run. It’s been a recurring theme with roots that stretch all the way back to game one against the Lakers, when Houston came agonizingly close to ruining ring night for the defending champs, only to fall short in the final seconds.

It seems only appropriate then, in an irritatingly poetic sort of way, that the Rockets would be bitten by the close-but-no-cigar bug one more time before the lights go out on the regular season. It’s painful, it’s annoying and it stinks. That it happened against the hated Mavericks – allowing them to complete a season sweep, no less – makes it even worse.

Playing without injured starters Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola, Houston still managed to give the playoff-bound Mavs all they could handle Monday night. The Rockets led for much of the game, outrebounded Dallas despite a significant size disparity and forced the Mavericks into a whopping 20 turnovers.

The effort could not have been better. The end result could not have been worse: 98-91 Dallas in overtime. Another stomach punch loss in a season that by now has surely left a fist-shaped imprint on the abdomen of every Rockets player and fan.

“It just shows how every game could go either way,” said a clearly frustrated Chuck Hayes. “Every game we’ve had, we’ve had our chances to win. Some we did, some we let slip away. It just kind of shows what happens. That’s a prime example of what our season has been like.”

Making Monday’s contest even more torturous was the fact that, for a precious few moments, it seemed as if the Mavs would be the ones left lamenting an agonizing defeat. Down four with less than 90 seconds remaining, the Rockets rallied back to take the lead thanks to a Hayes bucket and a Courtney Lee three-point play with 10 seconds to go, giving Houston an 86-85 advantage.

One more stop. That’s all that remained to be done. And up to that point, the Rockets’ defense had largely been exemplary, limiting Dallas to subpar shooting percentages while forcing the Mavs into a slew of turnovers.

Houston’s D looked up to the task as Dallas inbounded the ball at half-court, staying in front of the ball and keeping everything on the perimeter. Hayes found himself switched on to Jason Terry as the seconds ticked away. When the Mavericks’ guard stumbled, it appeared as if Dallas’ fate was sealed. But Rockets-killer that he is, Terry collected himself just in time, pumped Hayes off his feet and drew a foul 22-feet away from the basket with a mere 1.5 seconds left on the clock. Only one of Terry’s free throws found the bottom of the net, but the damage had been done. Houston never led again.

“I was just thinking where is the horn?” said Hayes, who was otherwise brilliant yet again, totaling 10 points and 11 rebounds, extending the longest double-digit rebounding streak of his career to six consecutive games. “That was the longest 10 seconds ever. They made four passes, he did a pump fake dribble twice and still no horn. I wasn’t trying to block his shot, I was just trying to contest and he just stopped and pressed the brakes and I didn’t – not in time.

So close. So frustratingly, agonizingly close. But while that may be the theme of this season, it should in no way end up defining this team. The Rockets did not give up after starting the season 0-5, they did not give up after seeing another season-ending injury to Yao Ming, and even though their flickering playoff hopes had already been extinguished once and for all, they did not give up against a Dallas club that had so much more on the line.

From day one, win or lose, this team has worked. And Monday night provided just the latest example of its unending willingness to do so, be it via Goran Dragic’s 53 minutes of non-stop energy or Brad Miller’s all-around effectiveness on a bum knee. No matter the what ifs and close calls, the Rockets have shown they will fight to the very end – be it bitter or otherwise. Expect more of the same, then, come this Wednesday’s season finale against the Timberwolves.

“We are not going to cave in Minnesota,” vowed Rockets Head Coach Rick Adelman. “Let’s finish this thing out and see if we can get a road win. That’s what it’s all about. Everybody’s getting paid here, you’re all professionals. Whether you get eliminated or not, that’s not who we are is (a team that) caves in to the situation.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen Wednesday but we have never done it as a team and we didn’t do it tonight, and that’s all you can ask of these guys. ( Dallas is) a very good team and we were right there with a chance to win and it just didn’t happen. But it doesn’t take away the effort we made.”

QUOTES

RICK ADELMAN

We really battled. We did everything we could in regulation and then they kind of took over in the overtime and made plays. But give our guys credit; we went after but just came up short.

We did everything right up until that last possession. We defended the hell out of it, Chuck just got a little antsy and got caught in the air. That was going to be a tough shot but that happens. It’s just one of those things. Terry missed the free throw that gave us another shot but we might have got a little tired in overtime. The guys really played hard and busted their tail.

(tough to lose last home game): Yeah, and we played a very good team who’s beaten us three times in a row and we wanted to try and get this game. We knew they were playing for seeding and we wanted to go out and win this game. It’s a shame because they played so hard. But now we’ve got to finish it on the road. It’s too bad we lost this game but that’s a very good team and they’re going to make some noise in the playoffs and we battled them right to the end.

What you worry about the most – and I’ve seen it in teams – is you get eliminated and your guys just kind of cave… We have not done that and that’s what I told them after this game: We are not going to cave in Minnesota. Let’s finish this thing out and see if we can get a road win. That’s what it’s all about. Everybody’s getting paid here, you’re all professionals. Whether you get eliminated or not, that’s not who we are is (a team that) caves in to the situation. I don’t know what’s going to happen Wednesday but we have never done it as a team and we didn’t do it tonight, and that’s all you can ask of these guys. That’s a very good team and we were right there with a chance to win and it just didn’t happen. But it doesn’t take away the effort we made.

KYLE LOWRY

(On the season): To be honest, it was a little disappointing because we all had high hopes of making the playoffs. But after the way we started, the trades, the injuries and everything, I thought we finished very strong. We still have one more game and hopefully we’ll go get that on the road. Hopefully we can get Coach 7 th place on the all-time wins.

I think it’s been a good year for me, overall. I think I’ve grown individually and I think I helped the team grow a little bit. For me personally, I’m just happy with getting an opportunity to show what I can do and start. Hopefully this is a good building block and can build up for the next season.

(on his injury): It’s pretty sore. I’ll be in the boot until May and then we’ll reevaluate it. Playing through it for a couple weeks obviously while we still had a chance to make the playoffs but it got to the point where it’s very agonizing and I couldn’t do it anymore. It just needs rest and rehab.

KEVIN MARTIN

The guys out there, we fought. We came up short and we did everything we could do except for a couple of plays that could win the game. We gave a great effort.

(On the Rockets improved offense in the second half) “We just got more comfortable. We just knew we had to keep on shooting and they would eventually fall. We started moving the ball around and guys started playing off of each other and it just made it easier.”

CHUCK HAYES

(tough to lose home finale?): Yeah, it is. I was just… why did I foul? I pumped the brakes a little bit too late. But it’s tough. It just shows how every game could go either way. Every game we’ve had, we’ve had our chances to win. Some we did, some we let slip away. It just kind of shows what happens. That’s a prime example of what our season has been like.

(on his foul on Jason Terry): I was just thinking where is the horn? That was the longest 10 seconds ever. They made four passes, he did a pump fake dribble twice and still no horn. I wasn’t trying to block his shot, I was just trying to contest and he just stopped and pressed the brakes and I didn’t – not in time.

It’s tough but he read me and made a great play. He read me, saw I was out of control and he stopped and got the call. We had our chance in overtime and they made shots and really defended well in the half-court.

GORAN DRAGIC

(On his increased minutes) “It's the first time in my life I've played 53 minutes. It was just fun to play. We were close to winning that game. Unfortunately, we lost the game and we have to win the next game in Minnesota.”

(On the disappointment of the loss) “Today, before the game, we were talking about how we had to win the game. We were playing at home in front of our fans and we were a little bit disappointed but we were fighting until the end and unfortunately, we lost the game.”

COURTNEY LEE

(On if the home stand ended the way they wanted) “No, not at all. We wanted to finish with a bang for the fans. They've been supporting us throughout the year and showing up on our last home game meant a lot to us. So, we wanted to go out there and fight hard for them and get the win.”

(On the energy level for tonight despite no playoffs) “No doubt. Our first goal was to try to make the playoffs and continue to win games and be over .500 and then after Memphis and New Orleans clinched (the playoffs) we just made up our minds that we were going to go out there and compete and fight in these last couple of games.”

DALLAS MAVERICKS COACH RICK CARLISLE

(On the overtime game) “It was unusual that this was our first overtime game of the year as we usually have our share of them. We had a chance to avoid it but we didn’t. We probably played our best minutes in overtime. We hit shots and made stops in overtime.”

(On the game) “Our first quarter was not good. All night we battled. It was a yo-yo back and forth type game. The numbers defensively looked good. I do think we wore them down and our guys were fresher. We hung together and won the game.”

(On the team’s playoff seeding) “We are trying to get the number two seed. We have to play better than this if we want to get it.”

DIRK NOWITZKI

(On the game) “We had a chance with Jet (Jason Terry) at the line and unfortunately he missed it. I thought our defense was good all game. We didn’t execute in the flow of the game and had too many turnovers. The stops down the stretch in overtime won us the game.”

JASON TERRY

(On his free throws at the end of regulation) “I was happy we didn’t lose and that was my reaction at the end of regulation. I was definitely trying to make free throws and I was relieved when Tyson got a hand on the miss.”

(On his play in the game) “I was disappointed with my fourth quarter and I made some errant passes. I was able to make shots in overtime. I thought it was a decent showing by our team as Houston is a tough match up for anybody.”

JASON KIDD

(On the game) “It’s a win. We might have played 5 minutes more than we wanted to. Down the stretch it was good to see us in a tight game to see how we would respond. We had a lot of great looks we just didn’t make. Houston played great and played hard and gave us a good run.”

NOTES

Houston suffered a 98-91 overtime decision to Dallas in the 2010-11 season finale at Toyota Center. The Mavericks sweep the season series (4-0) for the first time since 2005-06.

Despite the loss, the Rockets finished the home slate with a 25-16 record. Houston has won at least 25 home games in six of its eight campaigns since moving into Toyota Center back in 2003-04.

Houston moved its record to 2-6 in overtime this season, which matches the most OT losses in a single season for the Rockets (1-6 in 1973-74).

The Mavericks played in their first overtime game in 2010-11 tonight. The last team to go a full season without playing an overtime game was the 2001-02 Detroit Pistons, coached by Rick Carlisle.

The Rockets grabbed 52 rebounds tonight. Houston has now reached at least 50 rebounds 12 times this season (Rockets record: 9-3), including a season-best 58 rebounds (42 defensive) in the last game vs. the L.A. Clippers (4/9/11).

Dallas took a 52-38 edge in the paint tonight. The Mavericks also had 52 points in the paint in the last meeting at Houston (2/12/11).

Kevin Martin finished with 28 points (10-24 FG, 5-6 FT) tonight, including 3-of-7 makes from beyond the arc. Martin has now hit at least one 3-pointer in 15 consecutive games (3/12/11-4/11/11).

Goran Dragic posted 15 points (6-16 FG, 2-6 3FG), a career-high-tying 10 rebounds, seven assists and a career-high-trying four steals in 53:00 of action tonight. He matched his career-best four steals done three times prior to tonight (last on 11/12/10 vs. Sacramento). Dragic also had 14 points (5-13 FG), a career-high 10 rebounds, seven assists and a career-best two blocks vs. the L.A. Clippers (4/9/11).

Chuck Hayes totaled 10 points (5-12 FG), 12 rebounds and four assists tonight, extending the longest 10-plus rebounding streak of his career to six consecutive games (4/1/11-4/11/11). In addition, Hayes has picked up seven of his single-season, career-best 11 double-doubles since the All-Star Break.

Courtney Lee added 12 points (4-12 FG, 3-3 FT), a career-high-tying eight rebounds (eight on 12/9/09 vs. Golden State) and a season-high-trying three steals tonight.

Dirk Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 23 points (8-22 FG, 7-8 FT) and 12 rebounds tonight. Nowitzki has now posted 16 double-doubles in 2010-11. The Mavericks are 13-3 when he records a double-double this season.

Shawn Marion registered 21 points (10-14 FG) and four rebounds tonight. Marion came into this contest averaging 18.4 points and 8.8 rebounds over the prior five games.

Jason Terry scored 21 points (9-15 FG, 3-4 FT) off the bench tonight. The Mavericks improved to 17-3 when Terry scores 20-plus points in a game.

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