It took less then four minutes.
A seven-point halftime lead dissolved and became a seven-point deficit.
What looked to be a win against a Western Conference team with a record over .500 despite the absence of James Harden turned into just another disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks, this one to the tune of 111-104.
The Rockets played a great first half, taking a 57-50 lead into the locker room. They shot 62%, assisted on 14 of 23 made buckets, and out-rebounded the Mavs 18-14, but Dallas hit them with a 15-1 run to start the 3rd quarter, and Houston was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
“Too many live ball turnovers,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of the Mavs spurt. “They got out and ran, got a bunch of momentum.”
The Mavericks’ run happened fast, and once it started, there was no stopping it.
With 10:31 left in the quarter, Jeremy Lin made a free throw to make give the Rockets a six-point lead. 45 seconds later McHale called a timeout after Jose Calderon and Dirk Nowitzki canned treys to tie the game. Finally with 8:08 left, McHale called another timeout following a Nowitzki fastbreak layup that gave Dallas a seven-point lead.
Houston’s first eight third quarter possessions resulted in five missed shots, two turnovers and one made free throw made by Jeremy Lin, who made his return after missing six games with a knee injury, finishing with 20 points in 37 minutes.
“(I) felt all right, I think,” Lin said. “Second half was a little better than the first, but definitely can’t complain in terms of how my body felt for my first game back.”
Lin committed five of the Rockets 18 turnovers, which led to 21 Dallas points. Ten of them came in the first half, which kept the Mavs in the game, setting up their run.
After Dallas took the lead it never gave it back. The Rockets got within a point a couple of times, but on both occasions, the Mavericks scored on their next possession
Nowitzki’s 31 points led the way for Dallas, passing Alex English for 13th all-time. He scored 18 of those on only nine shots in the second half.
“When he gets going and he makes shots like that, it’s tough to guard,” Chandler Parsons said. “He’s getting calls, he’s not even hitting the rim it’s tough to guard him.”
They tried, but nothing worked.
“We tried to go small, switching things and he’ll just shoot over the little,” Parsons continued. “Then we started double-teaming and it got guys like Ellis and Crowder that step up and hit shots.”
Dallas made half of it’s 22 three point attempts, including an 8-for-11 stretch in the second half. Four Mavericks knocked down multiple triples.
The Rockets shot 54% from the field and were led by Dwight Howard’s 29 point 15 rebound night, but nobody stepped up in Harden’s absence. Francisco Garcia started in his place and scored three points on six shots.
The Rockets are now 18-11 and haven’t won back-to-back games since beating Golden State and Orlando on December 6th and 8th.Follow @AdamSpolane
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