HOUSTON It was a tough loss in a very tough game.
Houston pulled away from Dallas with a dunk-filled 19-4 run early in the fourth quarter on the way to an intense 111-99 win over the Mavericks in Game 2 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series Tuesday night.
Dwight Howard had 28 points and 12 rebounds. Josh Smith had 15 points and nine assists, many on alley-oop passes to Howard. James Howard and Corey Brewer each had 15.
Houston had 15 dunks in the game, including eight in the final quarter.
Monta Ellis led Dallas with 24 points. Dirk Nowitzki had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, but struggled shooting the ball. The Mavericks played without forward Chandler Parsons, who has been slowed by a sore right knee. Richard Jefferson replaced Parsons in the lineup.
J.J. Barea had 13 points off the bench. Rajon Rondo only played 10 minutes. He left the game early in the third quarter and did not return.
Games 3 and 4 will be at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Game 3 is Friday at 6 p.m. Game 4 is Sunday at 8 p.m.
“We’ve got to go home and take care of business,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “I like the way we’re playing.”
There were plenty of hard fouls in the game, two technicals and even a bloody nose. Houston’s Terrence Jones suffered a bloody and played limited minutes.
Mavericks took the lead on Ellis’ jumper to start the final quarter and Amar’e Stoudemire followed with another jumper to build an 84-81 lead.
But it didn’t last long.
Houston scored the next 11 consecutive points to take control at 92-84 with 8:11 left in the game.
Howard had 7 during the run.
Dallas kept it close until the 19-4 Houston run that swelled to 26-9.
“That fourth-quarter group had a lot of juice,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We got the game separated. We didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm on the night, but we found a way to win.”
Similar to Game 1, Dallas stumbled out of the gate and fell behind 7-0.
By the time the game made it to its first team timeout, the Rockets led 16-10 and Harden had 10 points at the 5:43 mark.
But the Mavericks began limiting the Rockets to one-shot per trip, helped by Nowitzki’s seven rebounds, and Stoudemire’s layup gave Dallas its first lead of the game at 21-20 with 34 seconds to go.
The Mavericks led 24-23 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
It woud remain close throughout the chippy second quarter.
Neither team had any significant runs and the game was tied six times.
The largest lead was only 4 points and the Rockets led 53-51 at halftime.
The Mavericks didn’t much help from the 3-point line on only two of 13 shooting. However, they did get key minutes and scoring from unlikely reserves Raymond Felton and Charlie Villanueva, who combined for 12 minutes and 8 points. The bench contributed 23 first-half points.
Rondo received a technical 10 seconds into the third quarter and Harden added a free throw. Rondo left the game a few seconds later and never returned.
“It’s not about one man,” Carlisle said. “We need everybody at their collective best.”
Houston gained some separation behind of the play of Josh Smith, who scored seven consecutive points for the Rockets during a late stretch. His fast-break layup made it 73-66 at the 5:05 mark.
Dallas closed strong with Ellis hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Mavericks within 81-80 at the end of the third quarter.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760