Mavs hold off late Rockets rally


HOUSTON (AP) -- Tim Hardaway made the most of his playing time
with the Dallas Mavericks.

Hardaway hit a key 3-pointer with less than two minutes
remaining and finished with 10 points in 16 minutes to help the
Mavericks to a 113-107 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

Steve Nash had 31 points, and Dirk Nowitzki added 25 as the
Mavericks won their fifth straight.

Juwan Howard scored 19 points for the Mavericks, who have won
eight of their last nine games. Nowitzki, who averaged 36.3 points
in the previous four games, scored 10 in the fourth quarter as
Dallas held off a Houston rally that closed the margin to 101-100
with 2:43 to play.

But it was Hardaway's 3-pointer with 1:53 to play that made it
104-100, and Nash's 3 that extended the lead to 107-102 with 49
seconds remaining.

Hardaway added four free throws and Nash two in the final 35

"They just found me wide open," Hardaway said of his late
3-pointer. "That's what I do. I take big shots. It's what makes
the game fun.

"Everybody in the league knows that when you leave me open, I'm
going to make shots like that. It's no big thing."

Nash felt comfortable with Hardaway taking key shots late.

"I felt good when I saw him get the ball," Nash said. "We
know (Hardaway) makes huge shots so it was good to have him hit
that one. It really gave us some space."

Cuttino Mobley led the Rockets with 35 points. Steve Francis,
who had a career-high 36 points against the Mavericks on Dec. 5,
2000, and 33 against them Nov. 17, finished with 25.

"Tim Hardaway was missing the whole game," Mobley said of
Hardaway's 1-for-8 shooting before the 3, "and he had a big 3 at
the end. Our luck isn't very good right now."

Dallas coach Donnie Nelson, subbing for head coach Don Nelson,
who missed the game to be with his wife, Joy, who recently had
breast cancer surgery, refused to credit luck for the win.

"That's just Tim Hardaway," Nelson said. "That's why we went out and got him in the offseason. He has the heart of a lion."

Dallas had a 10-2 run midway through the first quarter to lead 20-16. But Mobley's 12 points countered Nash's 10 and helped Houston manage a 34-34 tie after one quarter.

Howard scored five points in a 10-1 run to a 48-40 lead with 7:21 left in the first half. Nash had 16 points and Howard 15 as the Mavericks' advantage crested at 64-50 before they settled for a 66-54 halftime lead.

Mobley's seven points keyed a 12-3 Rockets run that closed the
gap to 73-70 midway through the third quarter. Dallas stretched to
84-77 after three periods with Nash leading the way with 21 points.

Houston outscored Dallas 8-2 to close the gap to 96-93 with 5:14 to play.

Game notes
The Rockets' Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim of the
Atlanta Hawks were both suspended Tuesday for three games without
pay and fined $15,000 by the NBA for a fight in their game Monday.
... Houston is 12-11 with Francis in the lineup and 1-18 in games
without him. ... The Rockets, who lost to Atlanta on Monday, are
2-7 in the first games of back-to-backs and 2-7 on the second games
this season. ... Dallas, which beat New Jersey on Monday, is 7-3 in
the first games of back-to-backs and 7-3 in second games.