HOUSTON -- O.J. Mayo took another giant step forward toward showing Dallas Mavericks fans what life will be like once Dirk Nowitzki returns to the court.
Mayo scored a season-high 40 points Saturday as the Mavs rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Houston Rockets 116-109 at the Toyota Center. Mayo's efforts helped the Mavs complete this three-game road trip with a 2-1 record going into Monday's home game against the Sacramento Kings.
After blowing an early 19-point lead, the Mavs were fading fast and looked as though they were going to go home with a disappointing loss. Behind James Harden (39 points), the Rockets led 96-85 with 9:25 remaining.
But with Mayo flinging in wild shots, and Vince Carter getting some timely buckets, the Mavs finished the game on a 31-13 run to spoil the return of Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
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"We were just focused on timely scoring," said Mayo, who was 15 of 26, including 6 of 9 3-pointers. "Trying to get to that .500 was very important to us right now, and we got there, so we've just got to continue building off of it."
Mayo scored 16 points in the first period, which ended with the Mavs leading 39-24. And he added another 16 points in the fourth period, enabling the Mavs to get out of town with a 10-10 record.
No basket was bigger for Mayo than a 3-pointer he made as the shot clock expired with 38.4 seconds left in the game. That basket put the Mavs ahead, 112-107, and took some of the steam out of the Rockets.
"We were trying to bait that I was going to get the ball in the corner," Mayo said. "[Derek] Fisher was patient, I was patient and Vince [Carter] set a tremendous screen and I was able to get open and knock that down."
Coach Rick Carlisle said the shooting spree by Mayo was a sight for any fan to see.
"An unbelievable performance," Carlisle said. "What he's showing over the first 20 game is that he has the ability to carry a team at times, and it was real impressive tonight. He's showing a strong-willed mentality, and he's really hungry to win."
In addition to Mayo, the Mavs got 20 points and seven rebounds from Chris Kaman, who played 19 minutes despite trying to recuperate from a sprained left ankle.
"I was hurting the team a little bit defensively with the pick-and-rolls with Harden," Kaman said. "I didn't want them to take advantage of that and put us in a bad way. I went and retaped it at halftime and got some ice on it, and came out and it stiffened. I was ready to go back in, but Coach went a different direction with a smaller, mobile lineup and we got it done."
Carlisle wasn't sure what he was going to get from Kaman, who suffered his injury during Thursday's win at Phoenix.
"I tell you what, Kaman showed a lot of guts even being out there tonight," Carlisle said. "His ankle is purple, if you want to go look at it in the training room.
"He strapped it up and went out there and gave us everything that he had. He's obviously struggling laterally, but to pick up the scoring numbers that he did is phenomenal, and it proves a lot to the team about what he's about."
"You talk about an emotional roller-coaster of a game," Fisher said. "It doesn't get any crazier than this one tonight. We go up 19, we go down 11 and the guys hung in and just kept believing,"
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760