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Mavericks Rise Above Rockets

March 07, 2013 6:02 am EST

DALLAS - The Rockets knew they were destined to face a far different Dallas team Wednesday night than the one they destroyed by 33 points just three days earlier. They knew the Mavericks would be dogged and determined – and they were. They knew the Mavs were likely to come racing right out of the gates – and they did.

Yet far more detrimental to the Rockets’ hopes of beating Dallas once more was the fact that Houston too often played like a different team as well. Whereas the second half of Sunday’s rout saw the Rockets perform at the peak of their pace-and-space powers, Wednesday’s rematch bore witness to a Houston team that was far from its best for much of the night. Rather than dictating the terms of engagement, the Rockets instead allowed Dallas to frequently create the matchups and mismatches it desired. Houston’s transition defense hemorrhaged points early and the club’s execution let it down late.

In fact, the vast majority of the game found the Rockets projecting the look and feel of a team toiling to scale a mountain with no summit, only an endless, unclimbable ascent into the void. Every time it seemed as if Houston had victory within reach, the foothold upon which they were standing gave way, sending them sliding back into the same hole from which they’d spent so much of their evening attempting to escape. It was that sort of night for the Rockets: an arduous, frustrating slog from start to finish. Amazingly, Houston still had a legitimate chance to emerge victorious in the final minute. But that, too, ultimately proved just as vexing as the Mavericks managed to hang on for a 112-108 victory.

“It didn’t go our way,” lamented Houston head coach Kevin McHale. “We didn’t get enough stops, really. They had some run-outs where our transition defense was bad early. Then we got that settled in and we had some opportunities late in the game to get some stops and we didn’t.”

In an effort to get those stops, Houston surprisingly leaned heavily on a pair of rookies throughout the fourth quarter. Patrick Beverley and Thomas Robinson played the entire final frame as McHale searched for both a defensive spark and an answer to the Mavs’ small-ball lineup that featured heavy doses of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. That threesome made McHale reluctant to play Asik, who had been devouring every rebound in sight through the first three quarters, since Houston’s starting center did not have an ideal defensive assignment so long as that trio was sharing the floor together for Dallas. Robinson acquitted himself well in the role, blocking a pair of shots while being part of Houston’s effort to limit the Mavericks to just two paint points in the quarter – this after the Rockets had conceded a whopping 50 points in the paint through the first three periods. Beverley, too, enjoyed some noteworthy moments, none better than his remarkable block on Nowitzki that was one of the signature plays of Houston’s 10-2 run that allowed them to seize their one and only fourth quarter lead when James Harden drilled a triple to give the Rockets a 104-102 edge with 3:41 left in the frame. 

“I thought Thomas was giving us some pretty good energy,” said McHale when asked to explain his decision to stick with Robinson and Beverley throughout the entirety of the fourth quarter. “He was trapping and moving pretty well. I really wanted to try to go back to (Omer); he’d been rebounding really well but they just kind of kept going small. We had a hard time with that. They put Dirk at the four and we wanted to have Chandler matched up on him as much as we could which meant the other guy was kind of a funky matchup for us at times.

“I thought that Patrick was playing well, too. I thought they both gave us good energy and that’s why I stayed with them.”

But while Houston’s kiddie corps played a key role in the Rockets’ rally, they were not able to lead their club to victory. Dallas immediately responded with a 7-0 run of their own to recapture the lead before holding on down the stretch as James Harden came up empty in his effort to convert on a pair of scoring chances in the final 30 seconds. Those misses put the cap on a discouraging defeat that came with too many what-ifs to count. It also placed added importance onto Friday’s already incentive-laden game against Golden State – a contest that may well go a long way in determining whether or not the Rockets will eventually be able to overtake the Warriors in the standings.

“We were prepared for a dogfight and we knew that they were going to play hard given the circumstances of what just happened," said Chandler Parsons, who enjoyed another big game against the Mavericks, scoring 23 points while knocking down five of his eight three-point attempts. "I thought we played just as hard as they did and I thought we put ourselves in a position to win that game. A lot of stuff didn’t go our way and they made some big shots – O.J. (Mayo) made some big shots down the stretch – but I thought we competed and played hard enough to win the game and that’s one that we let slip away.

“This doesn’t change anything. We’re going to stick together. We think we should have won the game. So we’re not going to hang our heads at all. We played well enough to win the game and just didn’t. So we’ll clean up some stuff tomorrow and get ready for Golden State.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

It didn’t go our way. We didn’t get enough stops, really. They had some run-outs where our transition defense was bad early. Then we got that settled in and we had some opportunities late in the game to get some stops and we didn’t.

(sticking with Robinson for fourth quarter)

I thought Thomas was giving us some pretty good energy; he was trapping and moving pretty well. I really wanted to try to go back to (Omer); he’d been rebounding really well but they just kind of kept going small. We had a hard time with that. They put Dirk at the four and we wanted to have Chandler matched up on him as much as we could which meant the other guy was kind of a funky matchup for us at times.

(on Jeremy not playing fourth quarter)

I thought that Patrick was playing well. I thought they both (Beverley and Robinson) gave us good energy and that’s why I stayed with them.

(on the last two possessions down the stretch)

We tried to get him to the rim and try to attack to see if he could get himself at least to the foul line. He’s our closer. He’s going to close by attacking normally. He’ll shoot shots but he likes to attack.

They played at our pace, really. They played at our pace better than we did early. They got up and down and ran. We didn’t handle a lot of their run-outs (well) early. We did a better job in the second half but they made some tough shots. O.J. Mayo made a big three late. We had our chances.

JEREMY LIN

A lot of little things that didn’t happen that we wanted to happen, so this one definitely hurts us and what we’re trying to do.

(on the young players stepping up)

They did a great job and brought a lot of energy for us off the bench. They kept us in there. We fought hard and played as hard as we could.

(Mavericks’ execution down the stretch)

Yeah, I think down the stretch, execution-wise, and even in transition they got Vince Carter open and O.J. Mayo open. They got what they wanted and we were forced into tougher shots.

I feel like every game we’re going to have glimpses and stretches of good basketball – it’s just a matter of maintaining it.

They were attacking us. They changed their coverages up a little bit when attacking us. For us, that means we really have to move the ball, zip the ball around and we didn’t have the high assist game that we need to against that attacking defense.

CHANDLER PARSONS

We were prepared for a dogfight and we knew that they were going to play hard given the circumstances of what just happened. I thought we played just as hard as they did and I thought we put ourselves in a position to win that game. A lot of stuff didn’t go our way and they made some big shots – O.J. made some big shots down the stretch – but I thought we competed and played hard enough to win the game and that’s one that we let slip away.

This doesn’t change anything. We’re going to stick together. We think we should have won the game. So we’re not going to hang our heads at all. We played well enough to win the game and just didn’t. So we’ll clean up some stuff tomorrow and get ready for Golden State.

JAMES HARDEN

Yeah, I just missed a couple shots, missed some easy layups. Pretty good game. We fought hard for four quarters and that’s all you can ask for.

(on the play of Beverley)

He’s been doing that since he got here. That’s nothing new to us. He did a good job defensively and offensively to control the game.

(on the difficulty of playing with new lineups)

Yeah, I’ve still got to figure it out. They did a good job, especially on the defensive end, blocking shots and really making hustle plays. Now we’ve just got to figure out how to incorporate them into the offense.

Mavs Head Coach Rick Carlisle

(On Shawn Marion's defensive performance.) "Shawn had a great all-around game. We needed his points early and throughout the whole game he did a tremendous job on Harden. Harden had a lot of points but at the end of the game Shawn was the guy that got the key stops."

(On the difference between tonight's game and Sunday's game.) "We played better. We had a stronger posture tonight. We were more determined. They made runs and we knew they would make runs. The run where they took the lead with about 3 minutes left, that was one where the guys could have dropped their heads but they didn't. We came out of the timeout, O.J. hit a big three, and we executed really well and built a lead back up to where we could finish the game. There was a lot going on out there. Dirk thought he was fouled a couple of times and he got upset. After 14 years of him being hacked and having his jersey grabbed and everything else, sometimes it just builds up. We weathered everything tonight and it is a sign of character."

(On O.J. Mayo's performance.)

"It was his best game of the year. He played great defensively, his awareness was tremendous, and offensively he made the right play almost every time."

Mavericks Guard O.J. Mayo

On career-high 12 assists

“It just came with the flow of the game. I just wanted to make the simple play every time down the court.”

On shooting the ball late in the game

“They trusted me and they put the ball in my hands to make a play. I was looking for Dirk and any of those other guys that were open. I’ve been working off coming off the screens, so, I got one of those after the three, Dirk had an iso and I was wide open at the top. It was a great team effort. Shawn Marion did a great job offensively and we did a good job finishing off that game.”

On tonight’s game after Sunday’s loss to Houston

“We were supposed to have the next day off, but instead we came in and worked our tail-ends off. After what happened in Houston, it was embarrassing, as a man, as a player and as a Dallas Maverick. We really wanted to come in here and show our fans that we are a much better squad. It was a great game and a lot of fun.”

Mavericks Forward Shawn Marion

On win

“I’m glad we pulled it out. They are an exciting team and on the floor, they are a team I haven’t seen in a long time. We knew we had to close it at the end. We knew it was going to be an up and down game. But, we were able to do what we do and that’s win.”

On Rocket’s three-point shooting

“They shoot about 25-30 three’s a night and that’s a lot of threes.”

 On James Harden

“Tonight I was able to stay on him longer and make it hard for him. He had some calls go here and there, but at the same time, he is just so aggressive that he is going to make them blow the whistle. I think we have to make it hard for him.”