HOUSTON -- These nights are few and far between for most NBA players, let alone former second-round picks. It was mildly humorous that Rockets forward Chandler Parsons spent some of it discussing defense.
In tandem with point guard Jeremy Lin, Parsons set a tone with brilliant first-half shooting that James Harden continued during a runaway third quarter as the Houston Rockets blitzed the Dallas Mavericks 136-103 to snap a nine-game series losing skid on Sunday night at Toyota Center.
Parsons hit his first 11 shots en route to a career-high 32 points as the Rockets (33-28) opened a six-game lead on the Mavericks (26-33) in the Western Conference standings. Dallas, which began its series win streak over Houston on Nov. 29, 2010, claimed the first two meetings this season and will host the Rockets, currently in eighth place in the Western Conference, on Wednesday night.
Despite his extraordinary offense, Parsons accepted some good-natured chiding courtesy of Rockets coach Kevin McHale for helping hold Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki to eight points on 2-for-8 shooting.
"He's been giving me crap all day about starting me on Dirk," Parsons said. "Dirk is a heck of a player. He can score pretty much wherever on the floor. I just tried to make it difficult for him and I had a lot of help with a trap guy coming. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.
"But I guess I didn't do anything."
Lin and Parsons combined for 35 first-half points on 13-for-17 shooting, sparking a 23-9 run that turned a nine-point deficit into a 64-59 lead on two Lin free throws with 29.9 seconds remaining before halftime. Lin and Parsons scored 17 of the final 19 points for the Rockets prior to the intermission.
Harden rode that momentum in the third quarter, scoring 14 points in the period on 3-for-3 3-point shooting while hitting 5 of 6 free throws. The Rockets opened the second half by tallying the first 15 points, and their 22-4 run extended their lead to 86-65 when Lin banked in an 11-footer with 6:07 left in the third. Houston led 108-78 entering the fourth quarter and opened a 37-point lead at 125-88 with 5:37 left to play.
Lin and Harden finished with 21 points apiece while combining for 16 assists and only two turnovers. Parsons finished 12-for-13 from the floor to eclipse the 31 points he scored against the Knicks Nov. 23, 2012.
The Rockets won their eighth consecutive game when recording at least 30 assists. On the heels of sluggish performances against the Wizards, Bucks and Magic, this thrashing of the in-state rivals was welcome.
"It was a heck of a game for us," McHale said. "We needed a game like that badly to just come out and play and have some good things happen."
O.J. Mayo paced the Mavericks with 18 points while Shawn Marion added 14 points and eight rebounds. Dallas guard Mike James scored all 11 of his bench points by the 8:56 mark of the second quarter, with his third and final 3-pointer extending the Mavericks' lead to 45-36. Dallas matched that advantage, its largest of the game, two-plus minutes later, but the Rockets' unrelenting attacks on the rim could not be stymied.
"I don't have a good explanation for it other than they picked up their game and we didn't match it," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of the Rockets' 44-17 advantage in the third quarter. "You have to give them credit. This is one of those situations where you have to step up to the challenge, and we just didn't do it."
Added Mayo: "We are looking forward to Wednesday's game. They definitely kicked our (rear ends) tonight."
NOTES: With 23 games remaining in the regular season and Houston holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Mavericks' faint postseason hopes are on life support. Dallas trails Houston by five games in the loss column and must take advantage of a home game against the Rockets on Wednesday. "There's a lot of attention on this because it's two back-to-back games and so it's kind of like a playoff series," Carlisle said. "Hey, we're scratching and clawing. That's where we're at." ... The Rockets haven't wowed anyone with their defense this season, entering Sunday night ranked 29th in points per game allowed (103.7) and 23rd in defensive rating (107.7 points per 100 possessions). Their defense over the first five games out of the All-Star break was worse, with opponents averaging 108 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting. "Since the break we have not played good defense," McHale said. "I guess part of that is integrating new guys ... but we've got to make someone uncomfortable."