Without several of their top perimeter players, the Houston Rockets overcame depleted depth by finding their big man down low.
Howard was a force for the Rockets in their last game despite not having much help. With James Harden sidelined because of a sprained right ankle, Jeremy Lin out with a sprained hand and starting point guard Patrick Beverley limited to 14:35 because of fractured right hand, Howard came through. He scored 35 points, his high with the Rockets (18-10), and pulled down 19 rebounds to help Houston to a 114-97 victory over Detroit on Saturday.
"I just told my teammates to trust me and understand we play inside-out," said Howard, who also had five assists. "I try to make the best plays I can for this team and I just want to win. The most important part about winning is getting everyone involved and we did an excellent job (against the Pistons)."
With the statuses of Harden, Beverley and Lin uncertain against the Mavericks, Howard and the team's other role players may need to step up again. Chandler Parsons scored 20 points Saturday and Francisco Garcia added 16, both above their season averages, and Houston shot 55.7 percent.
"We just have to go out there and play. It does not matter how many guys we have," coach Kevin McHale said. "It does not matter who is playing or who is not playing. We just have to go there and play together and play with some toughness. Toughness and togetherness overcomes a lot of stuff."
Howard managed only 13 points in the first meeting of the season with Dallas, though he grabbed 16 rebounds in a 113-105 home victory Nov. 1. In the second matchup Nov. 20, he scored 33 points and shot 12 of 16 with 11 boards, but the Mavs rallied to win 123-120 by outscoring the visiting Rockets 36-19 in the fourth quarter.
Dallas (15-12) has dropped two in a row and four of six, and it's coming off its worst defensive performance of the season. The Mavs lost 123-108 to Phoenix on Saturday, allowing the Suns to go 15 of 30 from 3-point range while Dallas was 3 of 17.
The poor perimeter defense has been costly to the Mavs all season, as they rank in the bottom half of the league in 3-point field-goal defense at 36.6 percent.
"I think our biggest challenge right now is to stay disciplined in some defensive situations," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We've had too many gambles, too many bad fouls in late shot clock and too many things that lead to chain reactions that we've got to eliminate."