For the fourth time in four meetings, Houston dominated their first half against the Mavericks are carried the lead into the halftime. But they lost the last two games to Dallas after faltering in the second half. This time, despite some really poor decisions down the stretch, the Rockets managed to not lose the lead and barely hung on for a 117-115 victory.
Just when it looked the Rockets had built a comfortable lead, Houston made a serious of head-scratching plays. With a 116-104 lead and less than three minutes remaining, Donatas Motiejunas fouled Vince Carter on a 3-point attempt. Carter made all three free throws. Just a minute later, it was Pat Beverley's turn to foul a 3-point shooter. He hit Devin Harris and Harris connected on all three free throws.
After Vince Carter hit a long 3-pointer, the Rockets thought they might be out of the woods when Dirk Nowitzki, who had 38 points in the game, airballed a 3-pointer and the Rockets grabbed the rebound. They were still up four and just 41 seconds remained. But after Parsons missed a jumper, eschewing the opportunity to drive to the basket, Nowitzki grabbed the rebound and was immediately and inexplicably fouled by Dwight Howard. Of course, he made both of his free throws and all of sudden a 12-point lead was down to just two points.
With 22 seconds remaining, the Mavericks would be forced to foul Houston. Well, only if the Rockets could in bound the ball successfully. That is something they could not do, after an initial timeout to avoid a five-second call and turnover, Parsons tried to throw a pass to Aaron Brooks deep in the Rockets backcourt, but he couldn't handle it cleanly and the ball went out of bounds.
After double teaming Nowitzki to get the ball out of his hands, Jose Calderon, who's a 45 percent 3-point shooter, launched a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key. It came up short, but the ball ended up in his hands again behind the 3-point line. Fortunately for the Rockets, that shot went awry as well and they escaping with a win and a season series split at two wins apiece.
Houston got 26 points from Chandler Parsons and 21 from Dwight Howard and despite a very thin bench, the Rockets got big efforts from both Aaron Brooks and Donatas Motiejunas. Motiejunas posted his first career double-double with 12 points and a career high 13 rebounds. Seven of those boards came in the fourth quarter with Motiejunas playing all but two seconds of the period. Brooks had 11 points and four assists with just one turnover and led all players with a (+12) plus/minus rating in the game.
But the biggest contribution might have come from Jeremy Lin who had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. He jump started the Rockets offense immediately after checking in for the final time with six and half minutes remaining. In just two minutes, he racked up two driving layups, a defensive rebound, and a great drive and dish to Pat Beverley for a 3-pointer, which pushed a five point advantage to 12.
"Tremendous job. Jeremy played really well. I'm happy for him. Played really well last night and played really well tonight," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We needed every one of them. I think he had seven assists and two turnovers and really moved the ball, attacked, did a really nice job for us."
James Harden missed his second consecutive game with his bruised left thumb and has now missed eight games overall this season. Lin's performance helped the Rockets improve to 6-2 in the games played without Harden. Harden was joined by Greg Smith, Omer Asik and Francisco Garcia who were all out tonight with knee injuries.
Houston has now beaten the Mavericks and Spurs in five of their seven meetings this season. But beating those two teams in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday night, is something the Rockets have not done since 1989.
"it's huge for us, I've never won here and they're a team that's a big rival in-state," Parsons said. "They are competing for a playoff seed and we knew they were not going to give up. We made some real stupid decisions and plays down the stretch and really got fortunate to win this game. At the end of the day a win is a win, and hopefully next time we're in that situation we won't foul shooters and can get the ball in bounds."
"It seems like you've seen that movie before," Aaron Brooks said. I've been on this team for almost seven years now, off and on, you're always used to something happening at the end where Dallas pulls it off. Dirk air-balled a three, that was a rare occurrence. We gave up a bunch of fouls, but thank god we finally pulled it out."