PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference first round; Rockets lead 2-0.
Rallying from a 2-0 deficit in a playoff series is not impossible. Doing it after losing the first two games at home is much more difficult.
The Mavericks entered the postseason as one of the league’s hottest teams, having won nine straight and 16 of 18 since Avery Johnson replaced Don Nelson as full-time head coach. Johnson’s biggest accomplishment was getting his team to commit to playing consistent defense, but that hasn’t been the case in this series.
Houston is averaging 105.5 points while shooting 50.9 percent (77-of-151) from the field in two games.
“We scored enough points to win but I’m severely disappointed in our defense,” Johnson said. “When you get broken down out front and then they can pass to wide-open shooters, it all starts with penetration.”
While 14 teams in NBA history have come back from 0-2 deficits—most recently last season when the Lakers beat San Antonio—only two teams have done it in a seven-game series after losing the first two games at home. The 1994 Rockets did it against Phoenix, and the 1969 Lakers against the San Francisco Warriors.
Working in the Mavericks’ favor is their 29-12 road record this season, the best in franchise history.
“It’s possible,” Mavericks guard Michael Finley said. “It’s happened. It’s not like we have to win the lottery, one in a million. It’s happened in the past, why can’t we do it?”
The only time in team history Dallas rallied from a 2-0 series deficit was against Utah in the first round of 2001, but both of those losses came on the road.
Mavericks guard Jason Terry insists his team’s confidence is not shaken.
“No fear. What are we scared of?” he said. “It’s basketball. We’re playing a game.”
Regardless of Dallas’ confidence level, this could be a very short series unless it finds a way to at least slow down Tracy McGrady, who is averaging 31.0 points, 8.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds in the first two games.
McGrady, trying to get past the first round for the first time in his eight-year career, had 28 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Houston’s 113-111 victory in Game 2 on Monday.
“People in Orlando know what type of player I was,” McGrady said. “I’m surrounded by a better team. The only thing that has changed pretty much is my intensity and my focus. Just the will of trying to get this team to the next level.”
With Monday’s game tied at 111 with 10.4 seconds remaining, McGrady charged up the court, used a pick by Yao Ming and pulled up to hit the game-winning shot with 2.2 seconds left.
“We shocked them a little bit by not calling timeout,” McGrady said. “My teammates didn’t even know. The only people who knew were me and Yao. I saw them scrambling on the defensive end. We caught them off-guard pretty good.”
It was the ninth straight victory for the Rockets, who are two wins away from making the second round for the first time since reaching the Western Conference finals in 1997.
Making McGrady’s job a little easier in Game 2 was the play of Yao, who had 33 points on 13-of-14 shooting. Yao was taken out of sync by foul trouble in the opener and managed only 11 points on 3-of-8 from the field.
“There are plenty of times when guys want to get the ball out of my hands, but what I want to do is just search out Yao,” McGrady said. “He’s making me better because he’s an outlet.”
While McGrady is doing more than his share as Houston’s best player, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki has been held in check thus far.
Although he was better in Game 2 after a dismal 5-for-19 performance in the opener, Nowitzki is shooting only 32.5 percent (13-of-40) overall and hasn’t been the force he was during the regular season. Credit has to be given to Ryan Bowen and McGrady, who have both done an excellent job defending the Mavericks’ star.
Houston is 17-1 when winning the first game of a playoff series, and 7-0 with a 2-0 lead.
Game 4 is Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Center.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mavericks - 4th seed. Rockets - 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 23.5 ppg; Howard, 9.0 rpg; Terry, 4.5 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 31.0 ppg and 8.0 apg; Yao, 8.0 rpg.