Rockets 101, Mavericks 98

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HOUSTON (AP)—After seven attempts, Yao Ming finally has a victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Yao scored 29 points, including five in the final 45 seconds, and the Houston Rockets handed the Dallas Mavericks their third straight loss with a 101-98 victory Sunday.

It snapped a six-game losing streak to Dallas and was Yao’s first win ever against the Mavericks. He has defeated every other NBA team.

“There is a phrase in Chinese `Resolve is victory’,” Yao said.

The Rockets needed plenty of resolve to overcome their season-high 30 turnovers and a franchise record 20 steals by the Mavericks, including nine by Dirk Nowitzki.

With 45 seconds to play, Yao tipped in a basket off a miss by Jim Jackson to give Houston a 92-90 lead. He then completed a three-point play with 15 seconds remaining to put Houston ahead 95-92.

“That was the play of the game,” Dallas coach Don Nelson said.

Steve Francis drove the lane and dished to Yao, who hit the basket as he was fouled by Antawn Jamison.

“I saw everybody focusing on Steve because he was trying to break down their defense, so I thought I would help out,” Yao said. “That’s just the most obvious play. There were a lot of big plays in the game.”

Francis was glad Yao was there.

“He bailed me out,” Francis said. “That was one of the crucial plays of the game. Yao was able to get open. We didn’t lose track when things weren’t going well for us.”

A 3-pointer by Antoine Walker with 4.2 seconds left cut Houston’s lead to 98-97, before two free throws by Clarence Weatherspoon and one by Cuttino Mobley provided Houston’s final points.

Michael Finley missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer for Dallas.

The Rockets held small leads for most of the game. The Mavericks rallied from a 90-85 deficit with five straight free throws by Steve Nash to tie it at 90 with 1:01 to play. It was tied again at 92 before Yao gave the Rockets the lead for good.

Nash led Dallas with 22 points and nine assists. Nowitzki scored 18 points and Finley had 16.

“It’s too bad we had a franchise record and not able to win the game,” Nelson said. “We were really active with our hands and that probably kept us in the game.”

The Rockets led 50-47 at halftime and 70-68 heading into the fourth quarter.

Houston stretched its lead to eight points twice in the third quarter, the last at 70-62 with 2:58 to go. However, the Rockets committed four turnovers and didn’t score again in the quarter as Dallas pulled within two.

“It was a really good game, I liked our energy and our effort,” Nelson said. “There must have been seven or eight missed layups. Maybe Ming hadsomething to do with that but we had too many misses around the goal.”

Notes

The Rockets play four more home games before finishing with 11 of their final 16 on the road. … The Mavericks also beat the Rockets six games in a row from April 11, 1982, to March 15, 1983. … Houston is 23-3 when shooting 45 percent or better from the field, and 13-23 when under that mark. … The Mavericks are 24-14 against teams with winning records after going 27-17 in such games last season. … The Mavericks are only 11-19 on the road aftertying for the league lead with a 27-14 mark last season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Dallas
S. Nash S. Nash
7-9,  22 Pts
4 Rebs, 9 Assists
 Houston
Y. Ming Y. Ming
13-19,  29 Pts
10 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists