Raymond Felton showed a lot of swag and veteran leadership Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
Looking every bit like a go-to player, Felton poured in 15 of his season-high 23 points in the frantic fourth quarter as the Dallas Mavericks hung on to beat the Houston Rockets 110-98 in front of a sellout crowd of 18,231.
It was the third straight victory for the Mavs, who stretched their record to 6-4 after playing their fourth game in five days.
With starters Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews sitting out due to rest, Felton turned back the clock and reminded fans how he used to take over games in his younger days.
I was on another level at that moment — just keyed in defensively and offensively.
Dallas’ Raymond Felton, on his hop and skip after a game-sealing 3-pointer.
When the Mavs’ 26-point lead dwindled down to 10, Felton rolled up his sleeves and scored seven straight to silence the Houston crowd and get Dallas back on track.
And when Felton drained a long jumper to give the Mavs a 103-89 lead with 2:56 to go, he did a bunny hop down the court and flexed his muscles — all while his teammates jumped off the bench and grinned from ear-to-ear.
“That was no dance, man,” Felton said. “It was a little hop and a skip. I was just in my mode. I was just focused. I was on another level at that moment — just keyed in defensively and offensively.”
The 23 points scored by Felton were his most in a regular-season game since he tallied 26 against Detroit on March 6, 2013, while playing with the New York Knicks. And with three-fifths of the Mavs’ starting lineup in street clothes, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“He played a great all-around game,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His defense was terrific. He had the toughest matchup to start the game because he’s guarding [James] Harden.
“Down the stretch, they were switching and putting us up against the [shot] clock a few times, and he made three or four huge plays for us, really, to close the game.”
23 Points for Raymond Felton, his most in a regular-season game since March 6, 2013.
The Mavs started Charlie Villanueva and rookie Justin Anderson at the forward spots, Deron Williams and Felton at the guard positions, and Zaza Pachulia at center. That makeshift lineup was dynamite against a Houston team that played without Dwight Howard and saw Harden open the game 0 for 11 from the field.
Dallas bolted ahead 32-20 in the first quarter and held a commanding 52-26 lead after Felton scored on a driving layup with 3:33 to go before halftime.
“Raymond has been great for us all season, but tonight he just took it to another level,” said Williams, who finished with 11 points and five assists. “They were closing in on us, and he just kind of put us on his back offensively, and he did a great job defensively as well on James.”
The Mavs also got meaningful contributions from Villanueva (19 points, five rebounds, three blocks), Devin Harris (15 points), Dwight Powell (13 points, nine rebounds) and Pachulia (10 points, eight rebounds).
I don’t really even look at James as a dirty player, so it’s all in basketball. It happens.
Raymond Felton, who took an elbow to the face from the Rockets’ James Harden.
But it was Felton who carried the Mavs on his back and dragged them to the finish line. Felton also had to absorb an elbow to the face from Harden, who was whistled for a flagrant foul.
Felton buried a pair of free throws after the incident, and then J.J. Barea completed a three-point play to put the Mavs ahead 96-77 with 6:36 to go.
“It kind of took me up another notch, but it’s all in basketball,” Felton said of Harden’s errant elbow. “I don’t really even look at James as a dirty player, so it’s all in basketball. It happens.”