HOUSTON – Having your body feel numb either means something great or it means something awful.
So when Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said on Sunday that his body felt numb, it is helpful to know some context: He had gone 12 for 13 from the field and scored a career-high 32 points as the eighth-place Rockets (33-28) got a 136-103 win over the Dallas Mavericks (26-33) at Toyota Center.
He was comfortably numb.
“Your body goes numb,” he said. “You get goosebumps and you’re in a zone you can’t really explain.”
Parsons’ only miss was what they call a “heat check.” He threw it up just to make sure the laws of physics and mathematics still applied to him. Had he made it, someone told him, he would have completed the greatest shooting night in Rockets history.
“Well now I really feel like an idiot,” he said.
It was a good night for banter. The Rockets trailed by nine midway though the second quarter — a symptom, Parsons said, of inattentive defense — but then exploded. The third-quarter tally ended up being 44, and that was plenty enough to blow out the Mavericks (who scored 17 that period).
“The third quarter was ugly,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t have a good explanation for it other than they picked up their game and we didn’t match it.”
Where words fail, there are numbers. In the third quarter, Houston turned six Dallas turnovers into 15 points. The Rockets shot 70 percent from the field and made six 3s in the period while Dallas went 6 for 18.
The Rockets were down nine with 5:56 left in the second quarter and led by 31 with 1:55 to play in the third. It was a 61-21 run in 16 minutes.
That was enough to drive Dirk Nowitzki out of the game after just 24 minutes. No Maverick played more than 26, and Nowitzki finished with just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting against Parsons’ defense.
As well as Parsons had played on offense, though, Rockets coach Kevin McHale wasn’t about to give him credit for stoning Nowitzki.
“Dirk held himself to eight,” McHale said. “That guy can score.”
That might be true, but it wasn’t like this was a new thing for Nowitzki. He’s averaging 16.1 points per game this season, and his field goal attempts have dropped from 16.7 per game in his career to 13.4 this season. Since returning from knee surgery in late December, Nowitzki has had his moments, but he disappeared in the fourth quarter against Memphis on Wednesday, going 0 for 5 in the second half and finishing with 10 points.
Then came Sunday, when the 34-year-old Nowitzki looked frustrated and unassertive and left the game for good at the 6:06 mark of the third quarter, right after a Jeremy Lin jumper put Houston up 21.
The Mavericks’ season was flailing around in the water anyway, and Sunday the Rockets pushed their head under the surface. It was difficult Sunday not to notice that these two in-state rivals appear to heading different directions.
Dallas’ superstar is 34, Houston’s is 23. Dallas had won the previous nine games in the series (dating back to 2009), but now the Mavericks look like a team that might need a major restructuring this offseason, something Houston just got done doing.
The margin allowed both teams to dip extensively into their benches. Most notably, Houston’s Thomas Robinson played his best game since being traded from Sacramento at the trade deadline. He scored 10 points and had eight rebounds in 17 minutes, displaying a face-up-and-drive game that was a little more than Elton Brand was prepared to handle at that point.
A rookie, Robinson was the fifth overall pick in the draft and McHale is still figuring out exactly what he has. It’s all still in the TBD stage, but McHale thinks Robinson’s quick feet will give the Rockets some defensive versatility they haven’t otherwise had.
“He can get out and show in pick and rolls,” McHale said. “You can switch stuff with him.”
It was a nice night for Parsons, for Robinson and for the Rockets, who don’t get many opportunities to coast.