How it happened: The Mavs made it much harder than it should have been.
They played a phenomenal first half, opening up a 25-point lead, and apparently got complacent during halftime. The Rockets ripped off a 26-6 run during the third quarter to trim the deficit to two points. The Mavs heated up to stretch the lead to double-figures again in the fourth quarter, only to see the Rockets rally within one point in the final minute.
But the Mavs managed to never completely blow the lead. For that, they can thank J.J. Barea.
The Mavs played four guys who have made more than $60 million in their careers for most of the fourth quarter. But it was Barea, who has yet to earn $6 million, who kept delivering clutch plays.
Barea, who was coming off a 25-point performance, scored 10 of his 19 points in the final frame. He also finished the third quarter with a tough layup in traffic off a drive. No basket was bigger than Barea’s pullup jumper to give the Mavs a bit of breathing room after Rockets forward Luis Scola (30 points) had a putback to cut the Mavs’ lead to one in the final minute.
The Mavs had to count on Barea because their usual closers went cold down the stretch. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry combined to go 0-for-10 from the floor in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs’ midseason funk is officially a thing of the past. They’ve won three consecutive games and four of the last five since their six-game losing streak. They’ve roared out of their offensive rut. The Mavs, who had failed to score 90 points in six of the seven games before this homestand, have scored at least 30 points in three consecutive quarters in the wins over the Clippers and Rockets.
Play of the game: Surprise, surprise … we’re going with an alley-oop to Tyson Chandler. We had more than one option to choose from in this game. The most spectacular came when Jason Kidd caught the Rockets in rotation, drove with his left from the right wing and flipped the ball to the corner of the backboard once he got to the paint. Chandler finished in his typical ferocious fashion, throwing it down hard with two hands in traffic.
Stat of the night: The Mavs had seven players score in double-figures for the first time this season: Chandler, Nowitzki, Barea, Terry, Kidd, Sasha Pavlovic and Shawn Marion. Chandler scored a season-high for the third consecutive game. He had 19 points against the Nets, 21 against the Clippers and 21 against the Rockets.