For the second game in a row, that Dallas Mavericks’ defense that they spent a lot of time working on in training camp got ripped to shreds.
Only Friday night, the Mavs couldn’t survive the carnage.
James Harden scored 34 points and the Houston Rockets muscled their way past the Mavs 113-105 before a sellout crowd of 18,142 at the Toyota Center.
The loss dropped the Mavs to 1-1 and came one game after they opened the season by allowing 109 points to Atlanta during Wednesday’s nine-point win over the Hawks.
Dwight Howard scored 13 points and had 16 rebounds, and Jeremy Lin (14 points), Aaron Brooks (13) and Omri Casspi (12) were in a shooting groove as the Rockets’ offense was too much for the Mavs to have a chance.
Houston led 53-31 with 5:53 left before halftime.
“We’ve got to bring the energy up and we’ve got to really help each other and put emphasis on keeping people out of that middle and clogging that paint up,” said Mavs forward Shawn Marion, who finished with seven points and 10 rebounds. “It seems like at times tonight you could drive a car down the lane.
“You can’t win like that because it causes a change reaction.”
The chain reaction for the Mavs started in the first period, which ended with Houston nursing a sizable 38-22 lead. From there, it was an uphill battle that the Mavs never overcame.
“We’ve got to play better at the start of the game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our play in the first quarter really put us in such a hole that we could never get back over the hump.
“Every minute counts in an NBA game, so you fall down in double digits in the first quarter, you’re going to be digging out of a hole the entire night, and this is too good of a team to do that against.”
With the help of Monta Ellis (20 points), the Mavs managed to crawl within 76-70 with 2:59 remaining in the third period after Howard went 3-of-8 from the free throw line when he was intentionally fouled.
But even that strategy eventually blew up in the Mavs’ faces as Harden scored seven consecutive points to bump the lead back to 13.
“We wanted to change the game, and we wanted to disrupt the game if we could,” Carlisle said of his decision to repeatedly foul Howard . “They were in too good a rhythm, so we went to zone, we went to fouling.
“That stuff’s effective to a point, but if a guy stands up there long enough he’s going to eventually make a shot, which is what happened. And then once the first one went in, he got a little confidence and then he made two or three more.’’
Dallas hung around until Nowitzki fouled out with 6:11 left and the Mavs down 86-73. Nowitzki drew his fifth and sixth fouls against Harden.
“I guess I’ve just got to get out of the way,” said Nowitzki, who scored 22 points in 30 minutes. “He’s just so great at creating contact, so I’ve just got to run to the locker room and let him lay it in.
“I would have loved to stick around a couple more minutes and try to push. I can’t even remember the last time I fouled out, but it happened.”
With the reserves in the game, the Mavs closed to within 110-105 on a Jae Crowder 3-pointer with 24.4 seconds left.
But the Mavs, who host Memphis at 7:30 tonight at American Airlines Center, know this game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“Honestly, we didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Nowitzki said. “We weren’t good defensively, and we shot 38 percent.
“It’s a credit to us and our bench that we kept plugging and kept fighting to even make it a close ballgame at the end. But it shouldn’t have been that close.’’