Mavericks 105, Rockets 100

James Harden drove to the basket with his potent left hand,

intent on breaking a late tie against the Dallas Mavericks.

His layup attempt never reached the rim.

Elton Brand’s critical block led to a pair of tiebreaking free

throws by O.J. Mayo, and Dirk Nowitzki hit several big shots and

finished with 19 points to turn back a Jeremy Lin-led rally in the

Mavericks’ 105-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday

night.

”I had two or three. Which one was it?” Brand said when asked

about the block, managing to keep a straight face for a few seconds

before breaking into a big grin.

He knew which one it was.

”He’s one of the best finishers in the league,” Brand said.

”I just tried to do what I could to get a stop right there.”

The Mavericks, who won a season-high fourth straight game, got

plenty of stops on Harden. The NBA’s fourth-leading scorer finished

with 20 points but had just five midway through the third quarter

and was held to 5-of-23 shooting. He barely extended his

career-best streak of games with at least 20 points to 22.

Lin was the bigger threat in the fourth quarter. With Houston

trailing 93-82, he hit two free throws and consecutive driving

layups to start a 15-4 surge that tied the score at 97. He also had

a 3-pointer, but missed three of six free throws down the stretch.

One would have given Houston its first lead since the first

quarter, and the last cost the Rockets a chance to tie with 57

seconds left.

”Well, if I could hit a free throw that would be nice,” said

Lin, a 78 percent foul shooter who had 19 points but went 6 of 10

from the line.

Mayo’s free throws put Dallas ahead 99-97 with 1:02 remaining,

and Lin had a chance to tie it after drawing a foul call that

Dallas didn’t like. His miss gave the Mavericks the ball back with

the lead, but Mike James missed a long jumper. Harden couldn’t get

a good look at a layup on the other end, and Nowitzki won a

scramble for the ball and made two more free throws.

The Rockets had a last chance to tie, but Lin committed their

16th turnover trying to get the ball to Chandler Parsons, who had

18 points. Harden, Lin and Parsons – Houston’s three outside

scoring threats – combined to make 17 of 50 from the field as the

Rockets shot 39 percent and lost a season-high fifth straight

coming off their second five-game winning streak, also a season

best.

”Turnovers, missed layups, missed good shots,” Rockets coach

Kevin McHale said. ”We just go through stretches where that comes

back, and we’ve got to fight back after that.”

Mayo had 18 points despite 3-of-14 shooting because he was 12 of

13 from the line. Shawn Marion also had 18 points to go with nine

rebounds, while Brand had 11 points, 10 rebounds and two

blocks.

Six Mavericks finished in double figures for the second straight

game, but Dallas was looking to Nowitzki in key stretches. He hit a

3-pointer late in the third quarter to stem a Houston rally and had

another big jumper after Lin pulled the Rockets within a point with

3:40 left.

”I had some good looks,” said Nowitzki, who has scored in

double figures in nine straight games after a slow start in his

return from knee surgery that sidelined him for the first two

months. ”That 3 at the end of the third helped me get my rhythm.

Sometimes all you need is to see the ball go through the hoop one

time.”

The Mavericks shot 38 percent and had a subpar night at the line

before Nowitzki, Mayo and Dahntay Jones combined to make eight

straight in the final 1:02.

Harden had gone more than two quarters without a basket when he

stole a pass and converted a three-point play on the other end

midway through the third. He ended up with five points during a

10-2 run that pulled Houston to 71-69.

NOTES: The Mavericks didn’t trail in Monday’s 113-98 win over

Minnesota, the first time this season Dallas led from start to

finish. It also was the first time the Mavericks had three players

with 20 or more points in a game. Darren Collison scored 23 and

Mayo and Brand added 20 apiece. … Collison and Mayo had nine

assists each against the Timberwolves, making it the first time

since 2002 that two Dallas players had at least 20 points and nine

assists in the same game. … Houston’s 18 points in the first

quarter matched a season low for a Dallas opponent in the first.

… James’ 10-day contract expires at midnight Thursday. He played

critical minutes against the Rockets, increasing the likelihood

that he’ll stay around.