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Harden leads Rockets past Mavericks

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Updated 12 months ago on
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HOUSTON — Faced with the specter of blowing a second-half lead on their home court for the second time in as many games, the Houston Rockets unearthed something that had been missing throughout the two collapses defining their miserable work week: an attacking mentality.

Rockets guard James Harden converted a decisive three-point play with 28.2 seconds left that lifted short-handed Houston to a 95-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.

Harden scored through a foul on Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons, who was booed lustily throughout his first appearance against his former team. Harden made the subsequent free throw to give the Rockets (10-3) a 93-92 lead and then stepped up on the defensive end, forcing Mavericks guard Monta Ellis into a turnover that resulted in two free throws for Rockets forward Trevor Ariza with 21.3 seconds to play.

Harden finished with 32 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Before he and reserve guard Jason Terry scored baskets inside the final 74 seconds, Houston totaled six field goals in the second half.

“With this team, I think we’re growing,” Harden said. “We’re growing day to day, and if we can grow and get through stages like this not scoring the ball for six minutes and relying on our defense (that’s a plus).”

Rockets guard Patrick Beverley added 20 points on a career-high six 3-pointers before departing in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. Forward Donatas Motiejunas added a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) as Houston held its own on the boards, finishing with a minus-3 rebounding deficit despite missing center Dwight Howard.

Mavericks centers Tyson Chandler (13 points, 13 rebounds) and Brandan Wright (14 points, 11 rebounds plus three blocks) recorded double-doubles as Dallas erased an 18-point, second-half deficit by dominating the interior en route to a 44-26 edge on points in the paint. Without Howard, sidelined for a second consecutive game with a right knee strain, the Rockets proved prone, especially after they cooled off considerably following an exceptional shooting display in the first half.

Dallas (10-4), which had its six-game winning streak snapped, was methodical in taking advantage.

The Mavericks held Houston scoreless for more than six minutes in the fourth quarter, turning an 81-73 deficit into an 86-81 lead. But Dallas failed to extend beyond a six-point advantage despite the Rockets’ woes.

“We didn’t have a good shooting night and it’s going to happen, and on those nights your defense has to hold you in there,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Clearly, from start to finish, defense wasn’t good enough.”

Said Parsons: “No one really got hot. We had good looks but we didn’t knock them down, but it’s some nights like that where everyone struggles.”

With a barrage of 3-pointers, the Rockets surged into the break with a 60-51 lead, shooting 13 of 25 from behind the arc. During one roughly three-minute stretch, the Rockets converted four baskets, each from deep, turning a 39-35 lead to a 51-39 cushion with 5:43 left in the half.

But the Mavericks kept pace with their inside dominance spurred by Chandler and Wright. By the intermission, Dallas had amassed 26 points in the paint, many coming on a collection of alley-oops and put-back dunks by Chandler and Wright. Chandler had one of each down the stretch, capping the first-half scoring via dunk with 26.2 seconds left.

When Houston failed to maintain its shooting touch, going 2 of 16 on 3s in the third, Dallas sliced a 73-55 deficit in half with a 13-4 run that included 3s from Devin Harris and Ellis and a Parsons three-point play.

“We missed a lot of wide-open good shots,” McHale said. “But we had better ball movement, better pace and a better attack.”

NOTES: Mavericks G Devin Harris returned to the active roster after missing two games with right lower leg soreness. Harris ranks sixth on the team in scoring (8.6 points) and fourth in assists (4.4 per game). … Rockets C Dwight Howard missed his second consecutive game with a right knee strain and the team announced no timetable for his return. Howard reportedly underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection to hasten the recovery process. … Mavericks F Chandler Parsons returned to Houston for the first time since signing a three-year, $46 million contact with Dallas as a restricted free agent. Parsons played three seasons with the Rockets before joining the Mavericks, for whom he is averaging 14.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. … Houston coach Kevin McHale linked the Rockets’ slower pace to their increase in turnovers. Last season, the Rockets averaged 98.81 possessions per 48 minutes with 16.3 turnovers per 100 possessions. This season, their pace has slowed to 97.06 with a turnover ratio of 19.3.

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