Dallas hits eight 3-pointers in third quarter


HOUSTON (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks beat Houston with 3-point
baskets and then talked about defense.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 points and Michael Finley added 29
points, hitting seven of Dallas' 15 3-pointers as the Mavericks
beat the Houston Rockets for the third straight time this season,
104-81 Wednesday night.

"We talked about it at the half that we weren't tough enough,"
Nowitzki said. "We wanted to go out and play a little tougher,
especially on defense. When we did that and rebounded better we
were able to get our break going."

Trailing 53-46 at the half, the Mavericks hit eight 3-pointers
in the third quarter and scored 31 points in the period on their
way to improving the NBA's best road record to 16-6. Finley made
three 3-pointers during the quarter and converted all six of his
free throws after being fouled twice in 3-point range.

"Our offense was generated by our defense," Finley said.
"Shawn Bradley got some big blocks and on the other end our point
guards found me and Dirk."

Dallas had 11 steals, forced 18 Houston turnovers and held the
Rockets to 39 percent shooting for the game. The Mavericks were
15-for-32 from 3-point range, equaling their season high for
3-pointers made.

"If you could bottle that stuff, it would be great but you
don't know, the next game you might not make those shots," Dallas
coach Don Nelson said.

Yao Ming led Houston with 20 points.

"The first half is the best we have had all year," Rockets
coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We had good shots and created good
situations. In the second half we came out and they spaced the
floor and took 3s. It was a barrage. We see why they have the
record they have."

Houston's last lead came at 58-57 when Steve Francis made a free
throw with 9:03 left in the third quarter. Francis and Dallas' Raja
Bell each received double technicals on the play following a
scuffle under Houston's basket.

Finley then hit a 3-point basket with 8:50 left in the period
and the Mavericks never trailed again.

"It all started on the defensive end," Nelson said. "When you
start on defense, the game opens up. We played an ugly first half
and a beautiful second half. We felt fortunate we weren't down 20
at the half."

In the last meeting between the teams, Raef LaFrentz blocked
three of Yao's shots and held him to six points and five rebounds.

This time, Yao had 12 points in the first quarter as the Rockets
got the lead at 19-18 with 5:10 to go in the first quarter on a
basket by Yao. Houston held the lead the rest of the first half.

Francis finished with 10 points and Cuttino Mobley scored 13

The Rockets held a 27-24 lead at the start of the second
quarter. Their 39-29 lead with 6:42 left in the second quarter was
their biggest of the first half.

Trailing 47-38 late in the second quarter, the Mavericks closed
the gap by making their last eight free throws and trailed 53-46 at

"We thought we were fortunate to be down by just seven at the
half," Finley said. "The coaching staff told us we should have
been down by 20. We were fortunate that we played terrible and we
were still in it at the half."

Game notes
Dallas' 31 points were the most scored against the Rockets
in the third quarter this season. ... The Mavericks won the season
series from the Rockets for the first time since the 1991-92
season. ... Mobley has made 51 of his last 55 free throws. ... The
Rockets rank second in the NBA with 6.49 blocks per game. Yao Ming