Houston (17-17) at Dallas (22-10)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Dallas, TX
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Wed Jan 12, 2005
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Following a sluggish start, the Dallas Mavericks are starting to dominate on their home court again.

The Mavericks go for their sixth straight home victory when they close a five-game homestand against the Houston Rockets.

Dallas, a franchise-best 36-5 at home last season, opened 2004-05 with a 7-6 record at AmericanAirlines Center. The Mavs even lost three straight for the first time since a four-game skid from Dec. 30, 2000, to Jan. 15, 2001.

The Mavs have since averaged 113 points and shot better than 51 percent while winning their last five home games. Dallas, the NBA’s top-scoring team the last three seasons, is second in the league with 102 points per game.

Dallas made a franchise-best 74.3 percent of its shots in the first half Saturday while coasting to a 121-101 victory over Indiana, its fifth straight win overall.

Dirk Nowitzki had 34 points and 13 rebounds and Michael Finley added a season-high 33 points for Dallas, which made 26 of 35 shots for 77 first-half points against a team that has allowed 77 or fewer in two full games this season.

“I’m kind of surprised we were able to do that,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said. “Sometimes it’s not the shots you make but the shots you get. Well, we took high-percentage shots for us and made them, and some of the contested shots we made, too.”

Dallas also improved to 7-1 since Jason Terry became the starting point guard and helped invigorate an offense that failed to top 100 points in three of the previous six games before he took over.

The Mavs will need to remain sharp offensively, as their next two games come against two of the top three defensive teams in the league: the Rockets (third) and league-best San Antonio.

Dallas has more than handled Houston this season, scoring 107.4 points in two victories—nearly 17 more than the 90.9 average the Rockets are allowing— but the Spurs have been a different story. San Antonio, surrendering just 85.9 points this season, has limited the Mavs to an average of just 84.5 to win the first two meetings.

The Rockets bounced back from a two-game slide to move back to .500 with a 116-98 win at Denver on Sunday.

Tracy McGrady, who scored a season-high 48 points in a Dec. 2 loss at Dallas, scored 20 of his 45 points in the fourth quarter to help Houston improve to 1-1 on a three-game road trip.

“I told myself in the fourth that I needed to take over the game and impose my will on it,” McGrady said. “I felt comfortable with the shots in the first half that I missed that should have fallen for me, so I told myself I was going to take those shots in the fourth.”

Wearing a bandage to protect a sprained left thumb sustained in the second quarter, McGrady hit four 3-pointers and went 7-for-9 in the final period. He reached 40 points for the second time in five games and also finished with 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.

“He has special skills,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

Yao Ming added 21 points and seven rebounds for Houston, which shot 51 percent and went 11-of-19 from 3-point range to win for the fourth time in six games.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 10): Rockets - 4th place, 10 GB, Southwest Division. Mavericks - 2nd place, 4 GB, Southwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Rockets - F McGrady, F Juwan Howard, C Yao, G Bob Sura, G David Wesley. Mavericks - F Josh Howard, F Nowitzki, C Erick Dampier, G Finley, G Terry.

TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - McGrady, 24.7 ppg and 5.6 apg; Yao, 8.5 rpg. Mavericks - Nowitzki, 26.9 ppg and 10.0 rpg; Terry, 4.3 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 11; Mavericks, 102-78. At Houston, Finley scored 26 points and hit four straight 3-pointers during a 23-8 third-quarter run to help pace the Mavs, who held McGrady to just 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 6-9 on the road; Mavericks - 12-6 at home.

INJURIES: Rockets - G Charlie Ward (knee); F Clarence Weatherspoon (calf). Mavericks - G-F Tariq Abdul-Wahad (knee); C DJ Mbenga (hamstring); C Pavel Podkolzin (knee).

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