Tablet Sports

Mavericks rally to stun Rockets 123-120

Shawn Marion hit a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left to put Dallas ahead to stay and complete a furious rally as the Mavericks stunned the Houston Rockets 123-120 Wednesday night.

For the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 35 points and passed Reggie Miller along the way to become the NBA’s No. 15 all-time leading scorer. And Monta Ellis shined again, popping in a season-high 37 points to go with eight assists and two steals.

Dallas trailed 101-89 at the start of the fourth quarter but made 13 consecutive field-goal attempts in the stretch run at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks were down by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.

A desperate 3-point attempt by Houston’s James Harden was off in a wild scramble at the finish.

Dallas is now 6-0 at home, 8-4 overall and 2-0 on this three-game homestand, which concludes Friday against the Utah Jazz. The Rockets fell to 8-5.

It was a pair of baskets by Shawn Marion — both off feeds from Ellis — that rocked this building and pushed the Mavs over the top.

Marion received a bounce pass from Ellis to score on a fastbreak layup which got the Mavs within 119-118 with 1:20 left. Then, as Ellis was flying past the basket amongt a forest of Rocket players, he somehow found Marion open in the left corner for a 3-pointer that put the Mavs up 121-119 with 47.7 seconds to go.

“Marion hitting a three out of the corner, what a huge play,’’ Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “What a huge play.’’

The Rockets could have tied it, but Harden missed his second of two free throw attempts with 9 seconds left, as the Rockets trailed 121-120.

Jose Calderon’s two free throws increased the Mavs’ lead to 123-120 with 6.7 seconds left, leaving the Rockets with another chance to tie it. However, Harden misfired on a 3-point attempt and the Mavs left the court with their biggest win of the season.

Ellis said: “We just want to get better and let everything else fall into place.’’

The game could have long-term ramifications considering the Mavs looked dead in the water against one of the NBA’s best teams.

Houston had powered its way to a 93-75 lead with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter and appeared as though it was going to cruise to the finish line.

The Mavericks started the fourth quarter 1 of 5 from the field, but then hit their next 13 in a row. The Mavs crawled within 104-101 with 6:49 left in the game. From there, Patrick Beverly and Harden drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the Rockets’ lead to 110-101 with 5:41 remaining.

Nowitzki came in needing 17 points to pass Miller, and he got his 17th point — and the milestone — with a free throw with 2:11 remaining in the second quarter.

“Dirk doesn’t care about milestones,’’ owner Mark Cuban said. “Knowing Dirk he’d stick on 16 [points] for the next two years if he could if we win the games. That’s all he cares about.

“Like when he passed Jerry West [for the No. 16 spot], he was all right, that’s the Logo, change the backboards, we’re done. But he really doesn’t care about that stuff.’’

The 72 points Nowitzki and Ellis combined for were the most by two Mavs since Jamal Mashburn (42 points) and Jason Kidd (38 points) combined for 80 points against Houston on April 11, 1995.

Normally, the Mavs would have been feeling pretty good about themselves in the first half when they scored 61 points and shot 59.5 percent. The only problem is Houston scored 68 points and torched the nets at a sizzling 68.4 percent clip.

When the Rockets weren’t turning the AAC into their version of Lob City in the first half, they were busy burying 7-of-14 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I feel like they could have subbed in their assistant trainer and he would have made a three,’’ Nowitzki said. “They were amazingly hot.’’

Chandler Parson converted 3-of-4 3-pointers in the first half for Houston en route to 18 points and eight assists. Howard also dunked his way to 15 first-half points.

In the first quarter the Rockets had five players tally at least seven points apiece, led by nine each from Terrence Jones and Harden, who also distributed five assists in the first 12 minutes.

Besides Nowitzki, the Mavs got 23 points and five assists in the opening half from Ellis, who kept dazzling the crowd with his forays to the hoop.

“What makes Monta special, and he never got credit for it, is his basket attacks,’’ Cuban said. “Even if they don’t go in directly you put the defense in such a disadvantage that your offensive rebounding percentage goes up significantly and your points per possession, when he attacks, go up significantly.

“You have to be looking for it, but his impact in attacking the basket is dramatic.’’

Howard, who wound up with a team-high 33 points, was also so dramatic in attacking the basket that the Mavs attempted to slow him down in the third period by intentionally fouling him.

But when the Hack-A-Dwight strategy failed — Howard made both free throws when fouled intentionally — the Mavs changed defenses and never posed a serious threat the rest of the game.

“I would say [Hack-A-Dwight is] the last resort, but it’s something that other things have to be not working as well for you to go do it,’’ Carlisle said. “The best answer is to guard better and sometimes that’s hard to do.’’