This was not the game many of us expected to see. Despite facing a depleted Houston team, it took three rough quarters for the Mavericks offense to really get going, but even a strong comeback in the fourth quarter wasn't quite enough after three quarters of poor shooting (just 40 percent overall and 17 percent from three, with Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons combining for 0-13 from deep) and porous defense. The Rockets took this one 95-92.
The game opened with quick back-to-back threes from Jameer Nelson and Patrick Beverley, setting the tone for the first half of the game, a fast-paced two quarters which saw Mavs guards other than Nelson struggle from the floor and Patrick Beverley set a career high in made threes.
The Mavericks were no doubt hoping to take advantage of the Rockets' depleted front court (both Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard missed the game with injuries), but their perimeter defense was once again a problem early on. Houston leads the league in three-point attempts per game, but they really outdid themselves tonight, taking 25 in the first half alone. Unfortunately for the Mavs, they connected on 52 percent of them, far above their average so far this season. Patrick Beverley sat a career record before the end of the second quarter with five made threes, and James Harden seemed to have broken out of his long-distance slump.
Things looked a little better in the paint. On offense, Dallas was able to take some advantage of the mismatch in the post during the first half. The Rockets were forced to use the 6'10" Tarik Black at center, and both Tyson Chandler (11 points) and Brandan Wright (8 points) scored well, but couldn't compensate for the poor performance from the guards, including Chandler Parsons who struggled both offensively and defensively against his old team.
Extra shout out to Chandler Parsons, for watching Brandan Wright leave dorsey to cover Harden, then watching dorsey put back dunk.— Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace) November 23, 2014
Still, despite the Rockets strong first half, the Mavs were only down nine going into the half. Jameer Nelson was an unlikely hero of the first half, scoring 11 points on 3-4 shooting from three to help keep Dallas in the game.
And in case you forget that the Rockets and Mavericks have a real rivalry going: the first half saw enthusiastic booing for Chandler Parsons, a pretty spectacular delay of game call after Rick Carlisle reached in to grab the ball from Jason Terry before it went out of bounds, and double technicals on Tyson Chandler and James Harden.
Patrick Beverley opened the second half with yet another three, while the Mavs struggled before Dirk, who had a pretty quiet game, finally connected on a jumper three minutes into the quarter. Things got only got worse over the course of the period, despite Houston's three-point shooting coming back down to earth. The Rockets expanded the lead to 17 before the Mavericks' backcourt finally came to life, going on a short run that closed the gap to nine by the end of the third quarter.
Third quarter rivalry update: there were no technical called during this quarter, but just to keep things interesting, Monta Ellis and Patrick Beverley had to be separated by their teammates at one point.
Dallas opened the fourth with a shot-clock violation (the thirteenth turnover of the night for a team that's normally best in the league at protecting the ball) but managed to continue a run that put them within four. The Mavericks' defense also started to tighten up (Houston's three-point shooting fell to just 33 percent by the end of the game), and for the next few minutes the two teams traded buckets, until Beverley missed a wide-open lay-up on an inbound play almost halfway through the quarter. The Mavs rebounded and and a Tyson Chandler dunk put the Mavericks within one. The Mavs were unable to capitalize on a two successive Rockets turnovers until Black fouled Devin Harris and sent him to the line for three. Harris sunk them all for a two-point lead.
The Mavericks expanded and maintained their small lead for most of the quarter, but Harden made two free throws with under a minute left that brought the Rockets within two. An Ellis miss with 35 seconds left was rebounded by the Rockets, and because James Harden is James Harden, he got the and-one to put the Rockets up one with under 30 seconds left.
Houston's tight defense on the inbound play following Dallas' timeout resulted in a series of wild passes that culiminated in a Trevor Ariza a steal. Ariza was immediately fouled and made both free throws, giving the Rockets a three-point lead with seconds remaining.
Dirk missed three on the next possession, but the Rockets tipped the ball out of bounds. Monta Ellis got a good look on a long three, but couldn't connect. Rockets win, 95-92.
Dallas now heads home to face the Indiana Pacers at the AAC on Monday.