The stars didn’t show up Saturday night for the Houston Rockets.
But their complementary players certainly did.
The Dallas Mavericks held Dwight Howard to 11 points and James Harden to 4-of-11 shooting. But Houston’s role players stepped up and shined bright, and the Rockets captured Game 1 of this best-of-seven first-round playoff series 118-108 before a sellout crowd of 18,231 at the Toyota Center.
Game 2 will be back here at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday before the series shifts to Dallas starting with Game 3 at 6 p.m. Friday.
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As the Mavs rehash the events of Saturday night, they do so knowing they should have gotten out of town with a win on a night when Harden and Howard were pedestrian-like. But too many of the Rockets’ secondary players came up big, and too many turnovers by the Mavs led to the downfall in this game.
“It’s disappointing, because it’s those small things,’’ said center Tyson Chandler, who collected 11 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. “It’s the little things that we talked about prior to the series, starting that we had some brain [locks], and that’s what you cannot do in the playoffs.
“There were some opportunities where we had [Rockets players] under the basket and we could have fouled and didn’t foul, and we fouled them and put the wrong people on the free throw line. And then we turned it over and got people going. We did some things that didn’t help us tonight.’’
Two former Mavs who were on the team’s 2011 championship club helped dig Dallas dig a grave, one early, one late. Jason Terry scored seven of his 16 points in the first quarter, which ended with Houston holding a commanding 32-19 lead.
And Corey Brewer scored 12 of the 15 points the Rockets scored late in the game to help tackle any momentum from the Mavs.
“They got hot to start the game,’’ said backup center Amar’e Stoudemire, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes. “We kind of expected that because they are at home with the crowd so loud, and they were energized form the start of the game.’’
Despite Houston’s fast start, Rajon Rondo and Dirk Nowitzki got the hot hand and ignitged a 23-7 rally that netted the Mavs a 42-40 lead late in the second quarter.
But the Mavs had way too many turnovers — 17, which led to 23 points by the Rockets — that gift-wrapped way too many points in the Rockets’ direction.
“We have to find a way to be consistent and play the same way for 48 minutes,’’ said Chandler Parsons, who started the game and wound up with 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting. “We can’t give up these leads and have these teams go on runs.
“Houston is a team of runs, and they have guys that can make plays. We have to try and eliminate those.’’
The Rockets bolted to a 19-6 lead to start the game, used a 26-11 rally bridging the second and third quarters to assume a 76-64 cushion, and then Brewer applied the pressure in the fourth quarter, and that broke the Mavs’ backs.
“We’ve got to quit turning the all over, that’s the first thing that we have to do,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “Seventeen turnovers for 23 points just set the table for them in transition.
“It’s just too big a cushion for them, and if we can preserve the ball and get a few more stops and rebounds, you know those guys will get better looks. So a lot of it starts with our defense.’’
For Houston, Brewer scored 15 points in 24 minutes; Terrence Jones sparkled with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists; Trevor Ariza scored 12; and Josh Smith scored 11. It’s extremely high production for the complementary players.
Meanwhile, the Mavs couldn’t minimize their turnovers, and whenever they staged a rally late in the game, they couldn’t sustain it because of untimely turnovers and the inability to gain possession of the 50-50 plays.
“I don’t think we won the 50-50 ballgame tonight and that’s huge in the playoffs,’’ Carlisle said. “So it’s a 10-point game and it’s a lot of little things that lead to a deficit like that.’’
Some of those “little things’’ were an uncustomary six turnovers by Nowitzki. Many of those were in the open court and led to easy baskets by the Rockets.
“I thought I did a bad job handling the ball some,’’ said Nowitzki, who scored 24 points on 10 of 24 shooting. “Probably out of my six turnovers, five were right in transition and it’s tough to match up.
“We didn’t find their 3-point shooters on some of those, so I’ve got to do a better job handling some of their double teams not turn the ball over, because usually when we turn the ball it’s either a layup or a three on their end.’’
This was Parsons’ first game after he missed the previous six with swelling and soreness in his right knee. He went to the dressing room late in the second quarter, but returned and wound up playing 37 minutes.
“I just landed and I felt some pain,’’ Parsons said. “My leg just gave out on me.
“I felt fine the first six to eight minutes and I think that was partly due to adrenaline.’’
Guard Devin Harris also left the game in the first half and did not return because of a left great toe injury. It’s the same injury that forced Harris to miss the regular-season finale against Portland.
Still, since the Mavs won the rebounding battle 49-44, and held Harden and Howard in heck, they know the final outcome of this game should have been in their favor.
“Its got to be something defensively that you’re taking away, but it’s not a panic situation,’’ Chandler said. “We did all those things wrong and lost the game by 10.
“So I think it’s a matter of making adjustments, coming back in here and getting back in here and getting back after it.’’
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760