HOUSTON -- James Harden scored a game-high 34 points and carried the Houston Rockets through an uneven performance to a 113-105 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at Toyota Center.
Harden ended his tug-of-war with Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki with 6:11 remaining, drawing a foul while converting a driving layup to send the foul-plagued Nowitzki to the bench once and for all. Harden completed the three-point play to boost the Houston lead to 96-83.
Nowitzki finished with 22 points but only four rebounds as the Rockets' interior tandem of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik controlled the glass. After totaling 40 rebounds against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, Howard and Asik snagged 28 boards against the Mavericks (1-1).
Monta Ellis scored 20 points for Dallas but needed 19 shots from the field to do so. Jae Crowder added 15 points during a garbage-time rally.
Dallas forced Houston (2-0) into 23 turnovers but converted those into only 18 points.
The Rockets were on the brink of running the Mavericks out of the building in the first half, taking a 22-point lead when Harden delivered a no-look pass to Jeremy Lin in transition. The fast-break basket with 5:59 left in the second quarter bloated the lead to 53-31.
The Mavericks responded by switching to a zone defense and the Rockets shot Dallas back into contention, missing 6 of 7 from behind the arc in the second quarter. The Mavs established a deliberate pace offensively behind Nowitzki and cut the deficit to 61-50 by the break.
Houston nearly came unglued in the third quarter, turning the ball over on four consecutive possessions at the start while the Mavericks continued to whittle away at the deficit.
Midway through the quarter, Dallas began to intentionally foul Howard and the results were favorable. Howard missed seven free throws in the third quarter.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, got hot. After sending Howard to the bench with his fourth foul, Nowitzki later converted an offensive rebound and cut the deficit to 76-70 with 2:59 left. At that point, Harden responded.
Harden scored seven consecutive points, including a three-point play with 2:18 left that rebuilt the lead to 81-70.
When Francisco Garcia drilled a 3-pointer to open the fourth, Houston led 88-72.
NOTES: Lost amid the hoopla of Howard tying a career high with 26 rebounds in his Rockets debut was Asik pulling down 14 rebounds in just 26 minutes against Charlotte on Wednesday night. Including his three preseason games, Asik is averaging 13.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. "I think Dwight raised Omer's rebounding," Rockets F Ronnie Brewer said. "People didn't talk about Omer's rebounding. He had a solid 14. That's not bad at all." ... Rockets G Patrick Beverley will be sidelined 10-14 days after suffering a partially torn muscle in his midsection against the Bobcats. ... The Mavericks scored 111.6 points per 100 possessions with Jose Calderon on the court against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night, a sharp increase from the sluggish scoring pace that Calderon endured last season, particularly with the Detroit Pistons after the All-Star break (97.5 points/100 possessions). "I think he welcomes it," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Calderon. "That's one of the reasons he was attracted to us."