The Dallas Mavericks got their first win of the season over Houston Friday night, defeating the Rockets 111-100. Al-Farouq Aminu came off the bench to lead a balanced Maverick effort with 17 points and 12 rebounds. James Harden continued his MVP-like season, pouring in 26 points , 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in defeat.
After another frustrating start, getting down 8-0, the Mavericks went on a tear led by Devin Harris and Al-Farouq Aminu. Harris looked to attack early and often, helping Dallas regain momentum with a series of lobs to Tyson Chandler. The Rockets helped Dallas out a bit, struggling with turnovers that including a pair of charges taken by Monta Ellis. Once James Harden went to the bench with his second foul, the Mavericks took over and ended quarter up 24-20.
The second quarter saw Dallas keep the pressure on Houston and extend their lead. After an early miss on a baseline jumper, Dirk Nowitzki finally got a ball to go through the net on a putback (of all things) right at the rim over a Rockets defender. Aminu continued to play on fire, hitting a driving one-on-one lay up and even connecting on a rare wing three. Rajon Rondo decided to affect the game with a drive and dish to Aminu and followed that up with a crazy runner off the glass. Monta Ellis also came alive offensively, connecting on a pair of jumpers and a great drive over Harden. The Rockets responded somewhat, pulling within 6 thanks to several Dallas turnovers and inopportune fouls. Dallas managed to slow the Houston momentum through a series of Parsons-led drives, resulting in fouls and buckets. The Mavs led 54-43 at the half.
The third quarter was absolutely ridiculous. Despite playing limited minutes in the first half, Rajon Rondo came out on fire. He connecting on two long jumpers and a drive early to put the Rockets on their heels. Donatas Motiejunas kept the Rockets within range with some crafty post moves, but beyond some lucky bounces, things just did not go Houston's way. The Rockets continued to make unforced turnovers, and Dallas exploited these repeatedly. After Rondo's hot start, Devin Harris took the reigns, hitting an open three and continuing to force the action. Then Charlie Villanueva did this: Aminu also continued his stellar play with a ridiculous block of Harden at the rim. The Mavericks finished the quarter up 87-67, in near total control.
The final period went about as expected. With Dirk Nowitzki back in the locker room (thanks to some sort of arm injury earned by hacking Harden), the Rockets hit a pair of early threes, forcing Rick to call a timeout. Chandler Parsons was on the bench nursing an ankle injury (he would eventually be ruled out of the game), and the Mavericks rolled with a strange lineup that seemed to forget there was plenty of time left in the game for Houston to make a comeback. All of a sudden, the Rockets were within 10. With Dirk still on the bench, buckets seemed impossible to come by. A Harden layup followed immediately by an Ariza three cut the Maverick lead to five. After a Monta Ellis miss, Charlie V somehow stripped Harden after the rebound, and Aminu dunked the loose ball to get everyone on their feet. Dirk then re-entered the game after a Houston timeout, which fortunately seemed to settle the Mavericks just enough on offense. Aminu finished a Dirk miss to put Dallas up 9 with around three minutes remaining. Some crazy things happened in the final few minutes, but let's just sum it up by saying "WHEW" as the Mavericks finally had some breaks against the Rockets and came away with a win, 111-100.
Some additional notes:
- I'd be curious to know both team's deflections stat. There were an insane amount of loose balls and deflected passes. 38 turnovers between two of the best teams in the league is pretty crazy at this point in the season.
- I'm really, really glad Rajon Rondo bounced back from an awful start to finish with a very impactful game. I was about to riot on social media just because his short time in Dallas has been all over the map. I know the stats say the team is better with him, but man, my eyes tell me something different a lot of the time. Then he has a game like this where Dallas just cooks, and he's a part that matters. Also, that last assist to Tyson when the Rockets were trying to foul was hilarious.
- There's a lot to love about how Rick Carlisle uses Charlie Villanueva. He shouldn't get a lot of minutes; he's not a good rebounder nor very good on defense. But if he hits his first or second shot? Watch out. Charlie hit his first four buckets and looked on fire. Then, with more time on the floor he made enough mistakes to drive Rick Carlisle insane.
- Dirk Nowitzki came back with a sleeve on his shooting arm. I'll not freak out here, but let's just say that's concerning.
- There's a lot to like about what Devin Harris does when he's looking to get his teammates involved. He's arguably a game-MVP candidate with 17 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Early in the first his entry swung the momentum back to Dallas, with those three quick assists including those ridiculous oops to Tyson Chandler.
- Perhaps it's because I've been unable to catch as many games in the last three weeks, but I really would like to see more of the Monta Ellis-Tyson Chandler pick and roll. Early in the second quarter, Tyson set a screen for Monta just below the three point line. Monta drove hard right around the screen drawing both his defender and Tyson's man who was supposed to hedge to slow him. That left Tyson free to dive down the lane and the help defender could do nothing as Tyson got an easy two points.
- The first quarter J.J. Barea fast break where he was defended by Jason Terry only to be blocked by Corey Brewer was fun.
- I can't say enough good things about Aminu. He was everywhere, and his only really bad play was taking that open three pointer at the two and a half minute mark of the fourth. I'd really like to see Amar'e Stoudemire have to earn those minutes that Aminu's been getting because frankly, the proof is in the pudding.