Rockets soar into second round


The Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 on Tuesday for their second playoff series win in the past 18 seasons and first since beating the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.

Rockets take flight

James Harden was yet again the Rockets' catalyst. He finished with 28 points and eight assists and averaged 28.4 points and 7.8 assists per game during the series. Only two players have averaged 25 points and five assists per game in their Rockets postseason career: Harden and Tracy McGrady.

Harden scored at least 24 points in all five games this series, tied for the fourth-longest streak of his career (includes both regular season and postseason).

In Game 5, Dwight Howard was two points and a rebound shy of his sixth career 20-20 game in the playoffs. He became the fourth Rockets player over the past 30 seasons with multiple 15-point, 15-rebound games in the playoffs, joining Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and Ralph Sampson.

He had three dunks on Tuesday and finished with 18 for the series; only four teams have more this postseason.

The Rockets struggled defending the Mavericks half-court offense during the first four games of the series, allowing them to score 89 points per game on 45 percent shooting. Game 5 was a different story, as they surrendered 69 points on 35 percent shooting. As a team, they contested 73 percent of the Mavericks' shots from outside 10 feet, and Dallas shot 35 percent on those shots.

Coming up short

Dirk Nowitzki finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday but had a poor shooting night. He was 8 of 23 from the floor including 0 of 6 from beyond the arc, tied for his most three-point attempts without a make in his postseason career. He averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for an entire series for the first time since the 2009 Western Conference semifinals.

Monta Ellis finished with 25 points on 11-of-26 shooting in Game 5, his career-high third straight playoff game with 25 points. He became the first Mavericks player not named Dirk Nowitzki with three straight 25-point games in the postseason since Michael Finley in 2002.

Looking ahead

The Rockets will play the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-San Antonio Spurs series in the Western semis and wouldn't be favored against either, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index. They would have a 35 percent chance against the Clippers and a 24 percent chance against the Spurs.