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Same Old Story

January 17, 2013 12:12 am EST

Rockets rally late but fall short, dropping 105-100 decision to Dallas

HOUSTON - The storyline was all too familiar and far too painful to bear. Once more the Rockets found themselves forced to stage a fourth quarter rally and once more they found themselves right on the cusp of stealing victory from the jaws of defeat.

Unfortunately for Houston, however, that’s not where the sense of déjà vu ended. Over the course of their recent losing streak, the Rockets have been unable to propel themselves over the hump, always falling just short due to untimely turnovers, missed shots, porous defense or some combination thereof. And faced with that exact same scenario Wednesday night against the Mavericks, Houston succumbed to the same ill-fated mistakes that have plagued them for more than a week now as the Rockets dropped their fifth straight, 105-100 to Dallas.

In many ways, Wednesday’s loss represented Houston’s most excruciating yet during a stretch that had seen more than its fair share of heartache. The Rockets spent the vast majority of the game attempting to atone for the 19-0 run they had conceded to the Mavs during a first quarter seemingly filled with one Houston turnover after another.

But once the Rockets began taking care of the ball, they slowly, methodically and persistently started to chip away at the 15-point deficit they’d created for themselves. Chandler Parsons knocked down his first four 3-point attempts of the contest, providing some much-needed floor spacing and stability for a club sorely in need of both after that nightmarish opening period. Omer Asik (12 points, 15 rebounds) was tremendous, too, vacuuming nearly every available rebound that appeared in his neighborhood as he dominated the painted area virtually every minute he was on the floor. And Houston even received an unexpected boost off the bench from newly-signed and recalled Patrick Beverley, who made a big impact with his aggressive, disruptive effort on the defensive end and nifty playmaking at the other.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Rockets were well within striking distance, despite suffering through a poor shooting performance from the field and a rare off night from James Harden (5-23 FGs). Houston nearly overcame it all thanks a strong team-wide showing from beyond the arc and a masterful final frame from Jeremy Lin. The Rockets point guard went into attack mode down the stretch, repeatedly beating both Darren Collison and Mike James off the dribble. Lin scored 14 points in all in the period, driving for layups, draining a triple and living at the line, where he finally brought Houston even with Dallas at 97-all with 1:52 left to go.

What Lin could not do, however, was bring the Rockets all the way back. He missed three crucial free throws down the stretch and unleashed a backbreaking turnover on an ill-advised pass in the final minute. That, combined with two more missed layups by Harden – one, it should be noted, that was brilliantly swatted at the last possible moment by Elton Brand – doomed Houston to its ninth straight defeat at the hands of the Mavericks, who have now won four straight in their effort to get back into playoff contention after an awful start to the season that saw them fall 10 games below .500 before their recent turnaround.

“Turnovers, missed layups, missed good shots,” said Kevin McHale, summing up what has prevented Houston from breaking through during its recent five-game slide. “We just go through some stretches where we have to fight back after that.”

Added Lin: “I don’t want to take any credit away from Dallas. They did a good job of loading and being in their spots. We were a little too nonchalant with our passes. We tried to force it a couple of times. I had a key turnover down the stretch that was unnecessary. It was just a combination of the two, and it’s been one of our problems.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(Are you OK with the shots in the last two minutes or so?) - "They didn't go. James [Harden] had a layup, got fouled, and missed a couple free throws. Elton Brand made a heck of a block on a hard drive [by Harden]. So, I thought we got some looks that we were trying to get. We got fouled quite a bit. We were in the penalty and were trying to get to the line."

(common theme to some of these rough stretches that keep happening?)

Turnovers. Turnovers, missed layups, missed good shots. We just go through some stretches where we have to fight back after that.

(on James Harden’s rough shooting night)

James played hard. He got to the line 12 times. He had some looks that he normally makes and missed some, but you’re going to have nights like that.

(on the decision to play Patrick Beverley)

I just thought we needed a little spark. He played very well.

JEREMY LIN

(What was missing to finish the big run to win the game at the end?) “Well, if I could hit a free throw that would be nice. They did a great job of protecting the rim, and we got in the paint and had a few that either got blocked or that we missed. I had a crucial turnover trying to get the ball to Chandler late, and so I’d say offensive execution on our part. They also got to the foul line a lot down the stretch, and they were in the bonus and did a good job of attacking us.”

(Were the turnovers a function of what Dallas was doing, or were they mental mistakes?) “I don’t want to take any credit away from Dallas. They did a good job of loading and being in their spots. We were a little too nonchalant with our passes. We tried to force it a couple of times. I had a key turnover down the stretch that was unnecessary. It was just a combination of the two, and it’s been one of our problems.”

JAMES HARDEN

(Did the back-to-back games have a negative affect on your team tonight?) “No. Like you said, we had energy in the fourth quarter. We had a very good start and in the second quarter we went on a 15 or 17-0 run or something like that. There are some things that we can control and we have to get better at and be consistent.”

(Were the turnovers a function of what Dallas was doing, or were they mental mistakes?) “You’ve just got to make the easy play. We were trying to do a little too much, one extra dribble too much.”

DALLAS MAVERICKS HEAD COACH RICK CARLISLE

On fourth quarter

“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 (Jeremy) Lin. One of those plays where there was a foul called, I thought he (James) made a pretty good play on the ball. We did what we needed to do to win. It was a tough game, we have to give Shawn Marion a lot of credit.”

On Jae Crowder

“Crowder, he has been consistent the last three weeks. He comes in with energy, he’s not afraid, he’s aggressive and he plays with attitude. He is earning his minutes and we need him to continue to do what he is doing.”

On Dirk “being back”

“He’s doing better…you’ll know when he is back to being himself, but he’s not there yet. I thought he fought through some things tonight to give us everything he could give.”

On O.J. Mayo

“Going back to the Washington game and on, he is one of the guys that can help get guys shots. He knows how to do it…in the third quarter he made some terrific plays and he made some simple plays…He was making the “hockey assist”. There has to be an emphasis for him by me to him to see that he’s an all-around player and that he’s not just a scorer.”

JAE CROWDER

“At the end of the game we made shots, free throws and that led us to the win. We knew coming into this game that our focus was going to be on Harden and Lin. We knew that was going to take all five guys on the court and we were all locked in. We got stops and got off to running and on the other end we made shots.”

ELTON BRAND

“I just wanted to go out there and play hard and get the victory.”

(Talk about the team defense tonight?)

“We really stepped up tonight. They lead the league in offense with 105 a game and we tried to keep them under a 100. We got big stops, big rebounds, and big blocks when we needed it. We did well because they have a heck of an offensive team.”

(What did Mike James say to you after your block?)

“I don’t really remember. It was a big play and we did what we had to do to get the win. All five of us on the court wanted to cover shots. Like I said they hit some free throws and they also hit a big three. Whatever it took to win we tried to put ourselves in that position.”

(Was the Kings game a turning point for you guys?)

“Yes, after a tough lost to the clippers and we blew another lead and we could have won that game. We were down 17 at Sacramento and I think winning that game was a good spark for us. We won four games in a row and we want to keep this momentum going.”