How it happened: Dallas seized the lead with a 15-1 run to open the second half and never gave it back, with Dirk Nowitzki’s clutch scoring the key to closing the door on the Rockets.
After Houston scored seven consecutive points to trim the deficit to seven with four minutes remaining, Nowitzki scored on three straight Mavs possessions. That flurry of two free throws and two mid-range jumpers pushed Dallas’ lead back to double digits, giving the Mavs enough breathing room to get out of the Toyota Center with a win over a Houston team that was missing superstar shooting guard James Harden (sprained ankle).
Nowitzki led five Dallas players in double figures with 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Vince Carter scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench, helping make up for an off night from Monta Ellis, who finished with 18 points but was only 4-of-16 from the floor.
The Mavs survived a monster night by Dwight Howard. The big man who opted to sign with the Rockets over the Mavs and other suitors this summer had 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting -- including several sweet dunks -- and 15 rebounds. Chandler Parsons (21 points, 8-15 FG) and Jeremy Lin (20 points, 6-10 FG) gave the Rockets three scorers with 20-plus points, but Houston didn’t have the depth to keep up with the Mavs.
Dallas made 11-of-22 3-point attempts. Jae Crowder (11 points) went 3-of-5 from 3-point range, including a couple of big triples early in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Mavs snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 16-12, the seventh-best record in the Western Conference. They’ve won two of three games against Houston and can clinch the season series when the Rockets come to the American Airlines Center on Jan. 29, which could potentially be a playoff seeding tiebreaker. Houston fell to 18-11.
Play of the game: Jose Calderon grabbed a long rebound and threw a perfect outlet pass to Nowitzki, who had leaked out ahead of a pair of retreating Rockets and finished with a twisting layup. That bucket put the finishing touches on the Mavs’ 15-1 run to start the second half and gave Dallas a 65-58 lead.
Stat of the night: Nowitzki’s two highest scoring games of the season have come against the Rockets. He had a season-high 35 points in the Mavs’ Nov. 20 home win over Houston.