Dallas (40-9) beat Memphis 113-97 on Wednesday to match the club-best 16-game home win streak, set just last season. Dirk Nowitzki had 38 points on 14-of-20 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocks.
Dallas improved to 23-3 at the American Airlines Center, where it has not lost a game since Dec. 7.
“That lets you know how hungry we are,” said forward Josh Howard, who had 23 points and nine rebounds against Memphis. “We were disappointed about the way last season ended (losing four straight games in the NBA Finals). This season, we’re holding each other accountable.”
Dallas has won 13 of its last 14 games overall - and 26 of 28 - to claim the NBA’s best record. The Mavericks have a comfortable seven-game lead over San Antonio in the Southwest Division, and are 8 1/2 games in front of the third-place Rockets.
The Mavs put their home win streak on the line against a Houston club that has won five of its last six road games, although the only road loss in that stretch came at Dallas, 109-96 on Jan. 16.
Tracy McGrady had a season-high 45 points for the Rockets in that contest, but Dallas countered with a combined 58 points from Nowitzki and Howard to pull out the win.
“It’s pretty frustrating to lose when you play well like that,” McGrady said after the Jan. 16 game. “They’re a great team, we knew that. That’s why I attacked early. But it wasn’t enough. We still have a ways to go before we catch up to this team.”
Like the Mavericks, the Rockets (31-17) are coming off a win over struggling Memphis. Houston got 33 points, six rebounds and eight assists from Tracy McGrady in Tuesday’s 98-90 victory.
“We’re in a nice little groove offensively right now,” McGrady said. “My teammates have been great in providing offense as well and opening things up, allowing me to play one-on-one and have single coverage. When we are playing that way, that’s when we are at our best.”
The Rockets are a surprising 15-6 since All-Star center Yao Ming was sidelined with a fractured bone in his right leg on Dec. 23. However, they are only 4-5 against teams with winning records in that stretch.
In addition to Yao, who likely won’t return to the lineup until March, the Rockets could be without Bonzi Wells on Friday. Wells, who suffered a back injury in the Rockets’ game against the New Orleans Hornets last Saturday, will be a gametime decision.
Mavericks starting center Erick Dampier missed the team’s last game with a sore knee. His status for Friday is uncertain.
Houston and Dallas have split two meetings so far this year, with the home team winning each game. The Southwest Division rivals close out their season series next Thursday in Houston.