Final

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/22

Game 1: Tuesday, November 22nd
Rockets93Final
Mavericks102
Game 2: Wednesday, January 18th
Mavericks103Final
Rockets76
Game 3: Wednesday, March 15th
Mavericks95Final
Rockets81
Game 4: Tuesday, March 21st
Rockets72Final
Mavericks88

Mavericks 95

(51-14, 22-9 away)

Rockets 81

(29-36, 13-20 home)

Coverage: FSSW

8:00 PM ET, March 15, 2006

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

1 2 3 4 T
DAL 28 29 22 1695
HOU 19 26 19 1781

Top Performers

Dallas: D. Nowitzki 30 Pts, 11 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk

Houston: Y. Ming 36 Pts, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Short-handed Mavs cruise past Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) -- Down four players, the Dallas Mavericks still had enough to handle the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 11 rebounds, Jason Terry added 19 points, and the injury-depleted Mavericks beat the Rockets 95-81.

Dallas won for the fifth time in six games, despite playing without Josh Howard (strained hamstring), Devin Harris (strained thigh), Adrian Griffin (strained right hamstring) and Keith Van Horn (strained left knee).

"We're obviously going through a tough stretch right now, lots of injuries," Nowitzki said. "It's good we have a deep team."

Rawle Marshall, Marquis Daniels and Jerry Stackhouse added 12 points apiece as Dallas inched a half-game ahead of idle San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference. The Mavs have already clinched a playoff spot and beat the Rockets for the 12th time in 15 meetings.

"We don't worry about what San Antonio is doing," Stackhouse said. "We know we're a playoff team and we'll see how things fall."

The Rockets, meanwhile, may be ready to start thinking about next season. They lost their third straight, despite another big night from Yao Ming, who's averaged 28 points and 13 rebounds since the All-Star break.

Yao scored 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and kept his team from getting routed early.

"I'm not tired of playing, not tired of scoring," Yao said. "I'll do anything the team wants me to do."

But Yao never got enough support. The rest of his team went 16-for-47 from the field and Rafer Alston was the only other Rocket in double figures, with 18.

"We have to find a way to knock down open shots when Yao is getting double- and triple-teamed," Alston said. "He's playing at a high level right now and we're going to continue to go to him. For the rest of us, we have to find a way to help him out."

The Rockets dropped to 2-16 without injured leading scorer Tracy McGrady. McGrady is expected to miss up to five weeks after hurting his back in a fall against Portland on March 5. David Wesley missed his second straight game with a cracked rib.

Together, McGrady and Wesley are averaging 35 points and the Rockets have lost both games the two have missed.

"It's tough, but I think we're making it tough on ourselves," Alston said. "We're giving up fast-break points, we're letting guys do whatever they want to do on the floor."

The Mavs shot 52 percent (37-of-71) and were clicking from the opening tip, unlike Tuesday night, when they scored a season-low 34 in the first half against Cleveland.

The Mavs rode an early 13-0 spurt to an 18-8 lead and would've blown out the Rockets immediately if not for Yao, who scored 13 of Houston's first 19 points with simple flip hooks and soft-touch bank shots. Juwan Howard was the only other Rocket to score in the opening quarter.

"He's tough and he had it going tonight," Stackhouse said of Yao. "We just tried to make the other guys not beat us. As long as you can keep the other guys down, you should be all right."

The more-balanced Mavs, meanwhile, easily picked apart Houston's slow-reacting defense and pushed the lead to 15 early in the second.

Yao had 27 points and 11 rebounds in the first half -- his 25th double-double of the season -- despite constant double-teams. He hit eight of 10 shots and went 11-for-14 from the free throw line in the first half; the rest of his team shot 7-for-20 from the field and Dallas led 57-45 at halftime.

The Mavs shot 59.5 percent in the first half and hardly cooled off in the third quarter, going 9-of-16 (56 percent). They also found a way to throw off Yao, who had only one basket in the quarter and started the fourth on the bench.

"We struggled to guard Yao in the first half, but we made some adjustments and were much more physical in the second half," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We were fortunate enough to hold him down then."

Yao came back with 10:23 left and converted a three-point play during a 9-0 run that trimmed the Mavs' lead to seven.

Alston, left open most of the game when the Mavs doubled Yao, sank two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Rockets pulled within 83-77.

Baskets by Marquis Daniels and Nowitzki pushed the lead back to 10 and the Rockets never threatened again.

Game notes


Van Horn was shooting 3-pointers an hour before tipoff and Dallas coach Avery Johnson said he could be ready to play in 2-3 days. Van Horn has been out since March 3. ... McGrady received an injection on Wednesday to relieve swelling in his injured back. He's been undergoing MRI tests for the past four days at a Houston hospital. ...The 1980-81 Houston Rockets, who lost to Boston in the NBA Finals, were honored at halftime. Team members Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich attended the ceremony with the team's coach, Del Harris, now a Dallas assistant. ... Like Yao, Nowitzki also recorded his 25th double-double of the season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
DAL
HOU
Points 95 81
FGM-FGA 37-71 (.521) 28-64 (.438)
3PM-3PA 5-8 (.625) 5-12 (.417)
FTM-FTA 16-20 (.800) 20-29 (.690)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 8-36 9-36
Assists 20 15
Turnovers 12 16
Steals 6 7
Blocks 8 4
Fast Break Points 14 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 21 (0/0)
Largest Lead 18 2

Top Performers

Dallas
Houston
Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
Points: 30
Reb: 11
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 3
Yao Ming Ming
Points: 36
Reb: 12
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 1