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Sunday March 25, 2012 2:02 AM

Mavs Slip Past Rockets In OT

Houston loses heartbreaker, falls 101-99 to Dallas in overtime

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - Basketball can be such a cruel, cruel game; the difference between victory and defeat, euphoria and despair, sometimes so razor-thin it seems downright unfair to declare winners and losers.

For more than two-and-a-half hours the Rockets and Mavericks played each other to the hoops equivalent of a draw – that’s how little had separated the two Southwest Division rivals through the course of four quarters and overtime.

Both teams, divided in the tightly-packed Western Conference by just half a game entering Saturday’s contest, played desperate basketball, knowing full well what a win might mean. Huge, massive, incomprehensibly clutch shots were made by players from each side. Any number of individuals could have been nominated for hero status. It was, in the end, the type of game that both teams were destined to, quite rightfully, come away feeling as if they deserved to win, leaving the loser with nothing but guaranteed heartbreak.

With all the wild bounces, whistles and other myriad unpredictable twists of fate, at times it can feel as if flipping a coin might be a fairer – or at the very least, less painful – way to resolve the outcome. Since chance already plays such a strong supporting role, why not allow it to have the stage entirely to itself in such situations? Of course, that’s not how it is, nor how it should be. And so, at the end of events both random and rational, logic-defying and lucid, the Mavericks watched as Chase Budinger’s potentially game-winning corner trey came up short, allowing Dallas to emerge with an extraordinarily hard fought 101-99 win.

“If Chase’s shot goes in it feels a lot different,” said Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale, discussing the agonizingly thin line between winning and losing. “We had many opportunities to get a little separation. It was one of those nights where [Jason] Kidd makes a 35-footer and they threw a couple in late in the shot clock. We kept battling back – I was proud of the guys for doing that.”

Indeed, once the sting of Saturday’s bitter loss begins to subside, the Rockets will surely be able to better appreciate their efforts in a game that at times seemed destined to be added to their expanding catalog of signature wins over top-shelf opponents. Houston dominated Dallas on the glass, outrebounding the Mavericks 52-38 overall and 16-5 on the offensive end. All five starters scored in double figures and each made too many great plays to keep track of them all. Then there was Marcus Camby, whose late-game defense against Dirk Nowitzki was a huge part in limiting the Mavs’ superstar to just a single made field goal during the fourth quarter and overtime.

Digging deeper, the Rockets’ resilience was such that they very nearly rallied back from a 4-point deficit with fewer than 20 second to go on two separate occasions. The first occurred at the end of regulation when Chandler Parsons added to his own personal March Madness collection, draining a 3-pointer to tie the game with Jason Kidd’s hand in his face and just three seconds left in the contest. Then Courtney Lee ensured an extra five minutes would be required for a resolution by spectacularly breaking up the Mavericks’ in-bounds play; a Kidd-to-Brandan Wright lob that looked for all the world as if it would end in a dunk to put Dallas back on top for good.

In overtime Houston roared back once more when seemingly left for dead in a similar situation. This time they kicked off the comeback via a Goran Dragic layup with 14 seconds left before proceeding to produce a dynamic defensive stand that forced the Mavericks into an eight-second violation, giving the Rockets the ball back with six seconds remaining.

McHale put the ball in Dragic’s hands once more, asking his point guard to conjure the same sort of magic that had helped him rack up 24 points and eight assists on the evening. Dragic drove into the teeth of the defense, drawing a host of Dallas defenders, before attempting a bounce-pass to Budinger, who was locked, loaded and left all alone in the corner. Shawn Marion, however, got his hands on the pass, deflecting it downward. But savvy to the end, Dragic gained control of the loose ball with one hand and directed it toward Budinger in time for one last shot before the buzzer.

Ball goes in, the Rockets race off the floor having vanquished Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas – all in no small part due to the magic of the last-minute corner trey – in an extraordinary 11-day stretch. Ball goes in, Houston rises all the way to the 5th seed in the Western Conference.

So cruel that 53 minutes and 49 regular season games can be so staggeringly altered by a single shot. But such is the beauty – and brutality – of this sport. It can send you to the highest of highs and doom you to the lowest of lows; each making you appreciate the other all the more.

What can’t be forgotten, however, is all that took place before that final, fearsome twist of fate. The Rockets rose to the challenge against yet another Western Conference power and once more played well enough to win. That they didn’t come away with a victory will ensure a healthy dose of short-term pain, to be sure. But once the agony begins to dissipate, the Rockets will recognize that these sorts of efforts and this caliber of play will frequently be rewarded in the future.

Basketball can be cruel, yes, but it is by no means constant in its cruelty. The Rockets have thrived in such situations before – keep performing as they did Saturday night and they will surely rally to do so again.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(On Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby) “Sammie was really playing well but, you know, it just kind of got to the point where it is nice having both of those guys out there. Sammie had a hell of a game. I felt bad. I was trying to think about how I could get him back in there. I thought that Marcus did a nice job.”

(On how the Rockets could have won this game) “We had some really good looks. We were up by 3 (points) and we had two or three really good looks. We executed nicely and got some good shots. It was 84-81 and we didn't knock them down. I thought any of those probably would have had the game going in our direction. We battled hard out there but we just could not get it. We just could not keep it going.”

(On the game) “We did a lot of good things tonight but it is what it is. You're going to get shots at certain times and at certain times we had a great opportunity to stretch that game out a little bit. Chandler (Parsons) had a fantastic 3 to tie the game. I think overall tonight, our ball movement wasn't as crisp as it has been and part of that, you just have to give them (Mavericks) credit on their defense.”

(can you see the positives amid a loss like this?): If Chase’s shot goes in it feels a lot different. We had many opportunities to get a little separation. It was one of those nights where Kidd makes a 35-footer and they threw a couple in late in the shot clock. We kept battling back – I was proud of the guys for doing that. That’s what we’ve got to do: we’ve got to go out there and keep battling. It was just hard to lose that game because the guys played so hard and you want them to have that good feeling. But, hey, we’ll rally ‘em up and get after it again on Monday.

COURTNEY LEE

(On the game down the stretch) “We had many opportunities to win the game. A lot of shots were not falling, the calls were not going our way but I think we competed and fought throughout the whole game. If the shots that normally go down would have went down we would be in a great position (to win the game) but we can't blame anybody but ourselves. We will continue to fight.”

(On what positives can be taken from the game) “Everything that was going on out there. Everyone saw the game. We never put our heads down, we never gave up. We continued to fight and that's one positive we can take from the game.”

CHASE BUDINGER

(on the final play): The play worked for us. We got Goran the ball on the move. He turned the corner and attacked the basket. He does that so well; he attracts so many people and was able to find me in the corner. Unfortunately I just missed the shot.

(did you have time to get into your normal shooting rhythm?): No, what happened was when he came off, Goran went to go throw a bounce pass but it got tipped. They were bobbling the ball, but then Goran was able to get his hand on it and one-hand pass it out to me. So it threw off my rhythm a little bit but I can’t make any excuses because I still got a good look at it.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(On the loss)We played hard. We definitely had effort and we definitely put ourselves in a position to win the game. Things didn't really go our way. The ball didn't bounce our way. It was a tough game. They (Mavericks) played well but we deserved to win that game and you can't knock our effort.”

(on his game-tying 3 at end of regulation): It was a sideline out of bounds play. It was kind of a broken play; there were three options to try to find someone for a 3 but couldn’t get them open. Chase kicked it to me and I just hit a big shot for my team to put it into overtime. It felt good. I was just trying to make a big shot and was fortunate enough for it to go in.

LUIS SCOLA

I believe we played good basketball. You can’t expect much more than what we had today. You wish you could get maybe five or six points ahead in the last minute so you can avoid a close finish, but playing a team like Dallas after the two losses they had, it was going to come down to this. We got good looks. Those are the looks you want to end the game with, they just didn’t go in. We got good looks, we played well, we just need to keep going. We needed this game, it’s a shame we couldn’t have it, but now we need to go out there and beat Sacramento and try to get one in Dallas.

(playing well against top teams, despite being shorthanded): I don’t feel we’re shorthanded. I feel we have a lot of players that can play. Everybody has injuries and we do have them, too, but we just have to keep playing. I don’t think we have any excuses. I think we have enough elements to make the playoffs and we have to figure out how to win games. As I said, we needed this one big time, now we have Sacramento coming up at home and we need that one even more, then we go again to Dallas to see if we can get this one back.

GORAN DRAGIC

(On the disappointment of the loss) “We knew that if we had won that game we would be tied (with Dallas). It was an important game for making the playoffs but still we are going over there. We still play them twice and it's going to be very important. Especially those games against Phoenix, Utah, Dallas and Memphis. We have to win those kind of games.”

(On his increased minutes of play) “I just try to be solid on defense. I had a good game, unfortunately we lost. A lot of players scored more than 10 points. It was just a very tough game for us but still we were fighting to the end.”

DALLAS MAVERICKS COACH RICK CARLISLE

(On Brandan Wrights play) “He was great. He bounced back tonight, because last night he didn’t have a great night. He played some minutes last night, but didn’t have much impact. He was terrific tonight. Really from the moment he stepped on the court. He was a factor on both ends of the court, and hit big shots and made big plays.

(On Jason Terry in the fourth and OT) That’s his quarter. That’s his reputation. And he takes pride in it. Our guys look for him and he’s a different breed of cat. There aren’t a lot of guys that want that kind of responsibility, but we’re fortunate because we have two of them.”

(On how big was this win?) “It was the biggest win of the year for us. It really was. We were fighting back all night, until the end of regulation. They made a couple of plays, and we made a couple of plays. They guys kept hanging in, and that’s what it’s about.”

DIRK NOWITZKI

(On stitches in his lip) “I just had a few stitches and I’m not for sure how it happened but I think it was Dragic and it was really a huge play for us down the stretch. I guess he elbowed me in the face and the ref was right on it, and called the offensive foul. And that was a big play in the game. I thought it was Dragic, but it is what it is.”

(On Dallas’ play) “We’ve really been struggling obviously, and this kind of game you have to grind it out, and it wasn’t pretty. They were all over us early on and got a lead. We couldn’t get a rebound, and was just not a great game for us. But we hung in there and found a way at the end to win, even though it wasn’t a pretty game. It could’ve gone either way and it was a very physical game down the stretch. Really Jet (Jason Terry) made it happen for us. They were really defending me down the stretch, and Jason was really clutch for us tonight.”

JASON TERRY

(On the game) “I feel very comfortable in this building, and we really needed a win. We play this team again on Tuesday, and we’re battling them for a playoff spot. Every win is critical for us. We didn’t want to give up an easy victory, and we fought to the end.”

(On Dallas’ play) “We’re fighting now. We’re fighting every night we go out on the floor. Each game is very critical for us, as far as playoff positioning. It’s been a tough season, but overall I like the effort of everybody. We’re doing what we have to collectively as a group to have success.”

BRANDAN WRIGHT

(On his blocked shots) “It was one of those nights where I just got a lot of them. It was huge for us to come to Houston and get this win. To beat these guys is big since we’re playing them again on Tuesday, and in the battle for the playoffs. It was good to get this win, and we feel good to go back to Dallas.”

SHAWN MARION

(On the win) “Every game is big now. We’re in such a close race for the postseason and everybody is pulling together. The key tonight was staying persistent. Houston is a resilient team and they out rebounded us, but we were able to hold on and get a big win.”

NOTES

Chandler Parsons hit a last-second 3-pointer to send this game to an extra session, but the Mavericks again outlasted the Rockets by a 101-99 count. This game had a similar feel to the last contest here at Toyota Center. With the game at 86-86, Jason Terry missed his second free throw attempt with 1.5 seconds left in regulation to force OT. The Mavericks survived with a 98-91 OT win at Houston (4/11/11).

Dallas has now won the last five meetings with Houston.

Houston took a 52-38 (+14) advantage off the glass tonight. The Rockets, who now own eight 50-plus rebounding games this season (Rockets record: 5-3), have taken the battle of the boards in each of the last four games (3/18/12-3/24/12).

The Mavericks blocked an opponent season-high 15 Houston shots tonight. It marks the first time Houston’s opponent has had 15 or more blocks in a game since the Cavaliers swatted away 16 Rockets shots at Cleveland (12/30/91).

Goran Dragic finished with a team-high 24 points (7-14 FG, 5-6 FT), eight assists and five rebounds tonight. Dragic recorded his fourth 20-point outing of the season, helped by a season-high five makes (5-7 3FG) from beyond the arc.

Chandler Parsons posted his second consecutive double-double with 12 points (5-16 FG, 2-7 3FG), a career-high-tying 11 rebounds and six assists tonight. Parsons led the Rockets with 20 points (8-16 FG, 2-4 3FG) and a career-high 11 boards in a 109-83 win vs. Golden State (3/22/12).

Luis Scola registered 19 points (7-15 FG, 5-6 FT), six boards and a career-high-tying three blocks (done three times: last on 3/20/11 vs. Utah).

Samuel Dalembert had 16 points (6-7 FG), seven rebounds and three blocks, while Courtney Lee added 15 points (6-20 FG) to give all five Houston starters 10-plus points. The Rockets have now placed all five starters in double-figure scoring four times this season (1/13/12 vs. Sacramento, 3/4/12 vs. L.A. Clippers and 3/6/12 at Boston).

Marcus Camby recorded his first double-digit rebounding game with the Rockets by grabbing 11 boards off the bench tonight.

Dirk Nowitzki topped Dallas with 31 points (10-20 FG, 9-10 FT) tonight. Nowitzki now has 20-plus points in four of his last five games against the Rockets.

Jason Terry scored 24 points (9-16 FG, 4-4 FT) off the bench tonight. Overall, the Mavericks reserves outscored the Rockets bench by a 44-13 (-31) margin.

Shawn Marion notched a 12-point, 15-rebound double-double tonight, setting his season best in rebounds (prev. high: 13 on 3/13/12 vs. Washington).

Brandan Wright collected 14 points (7-9 FG), six boards and a career-high seven blocked shots. He becomes the first Houston opponent to notch seven or more blocks in a game since Marcus Camby (7) at Denver (4/13/08).

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