Chandler Parsons, still on a mid-20's minutes restriction, didn't start and was able to close the game, but it didn't matter. Dirk Nowitzki left briefly in the fourth with a hip injury but returned after. While Houston frequently guarded him with smaller players, Dallas weren't able to make a concentrated push to work the ball through him until late in the game. Dirk missed a potential go-ahead 3-pointer with just under a minute to play and Harden was able to finish it off shortly after that.
There's positives to take away, but dropping a winnable game will always leave you with a sour note.
James Harden is obnoxiously good at a type of basketball that's so, so hard to defend.
Writing objectively about James Harden is really hard. Personally, I cannot stand his style of basketball, but objectively, I have to admit that he's ridiculous. When he's in the right frame of mind and has the physical stamina to get to the rim, he's really hard to stop. Add in his vision and body control when driving in the lane, and he becomes an opposing team's worst nightmare. Tonight, he had 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists seemingly just to prove that point again.
The aforementioned dagger jumper was impressive, yet what I'll remember this game is the play prior. Terrence Jones handed off to Harden at the top of the key, which drew two defenders to Harden. He used a head fake as he picked up his dribble, getting both defenders off their feet AND the help defense which should have rotated to Jones. That left Jones wide open and Harden found him for the flush. Any player that has the gravity to suck in three defenders on one play is good.
Chandler Parsons looked lethal
We haven't talked enough about whatever witchcraft has allowed Chandler Parsons to recover from a surgery that has ruined the careers of many, many NBA players (see here for a list). Instead, a lot of us have been getting more and more anxious for his minutes restriction to get extended or end entirely. Why? Because he keeps teasing us with highlight plays that are a sharp reminder of why the Mavericks made that restricted offer sheet to begin with.
Parsons' length and stride is such an offensive asset, and in the first quarter had two brilliant moves which I'd like to see more of. In the middle of the quarter Parsons used that odd pump fake to get his defender up out of his stance. He then took a desicive dribble to get just outside the lane, drawing the help defense. Parsons then hesitated just so, only to then step around the help and lay the ball in without any resistance. Later in the first he was on the right wing with Corey Brewer on his hip. Dirk Nowitzki ran to set a screen, which Parsons used with shoulder fake towards Dirk which caused Brewer to try to jump the screen. That left the baseline nearly wide open for Parsons, who took one hard dribble and big step for a lay in.
Deron Williams is a necessary factor to the Mavericks' success -- but he has to take care of the ball
It's safe to say that the Mavericks were close to getting run off the floor in the third quarter before Deron Williams went on a personal 8-0 run which changed the course of the game. The Mavericks needed every one of his 22 points, including his four deep balls. But he simply has to protect the basketball. Eight turnovers is an absurd number in any circumstance but many against the Rockets were of the unforced variety. In a game decided by a pair of possessions, you can bet Williams would like to have at least one of his awful turnovers back.
Dirk isn't going to hit every clutch shot, but he does need to shoot more often
Typing that felt like blasphemy. Yet it's a fact. Dirk had a number of great looks fall short against Houston, including a jumper with 31 seconds which would've tied the game. Beyond some late misses, I'd really like to see Dirk shoot the ball more over the course of the game. Many of his looks seem to come in bunches and that means he doesn't have much of a chance to get into the flow of the offense. Carlisle's offensive structure is built around balance, but considering how bad most of the Mavericks are shooting this season, I don't think anyone would mind if Dirk hoists up another open jumper or three over the course of the game.
Devin Harris is not, in fact, dead
Harris really deserves his own post but suffice it to say it was great to see Harris hit good looks to the tune of 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting. He also hit this circus shot which was a lot of fun.