Dallas (43-9) at Houston (33-18)

Clear Currently: Houston, TX, US
Temp: 64° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Thu Feb 15, 2007
  • TV: TNT
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After another clutch performance from Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks look to head into the All-Star break on a nine-game winning streak Thursday when they visit Tracy McGrady and the surging Houston Rockets.

Nowitzki made a layup with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter Tuesday and his assist on Jason Terry’s 16-footer with 34.9 seconds to go helped Dallas (43-9) overcome a 16-point second-half deficit and win 99-93 at Milwaukee.

“Dirk Nowitzki is incredible. Man, sometimes, I get caught watching him, he’s so good,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

Nowitzki finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and matched a career-high with eight assists to help the Mavs win for the 16th time in 17 contests. The lone loss in that span was a 96-85 defeat at Chicago on Jan. 25.

The Mavs, owners of the best record in the NBA, are accustomed to Nowitzki’s superb performances. The 7-foot German power forward leads the team in scoring (25.2 points per game) and rebounding (9.5) for the seventh consecutive season.

“A lot of people don’t give him a lot of respect,” Mavs swingman Josh Howard said. “He should have been MVP the last two years for what he’s done for this team. I think he’s proven his point.”

Those two NBA MVP awards went to Phoenix’s Steve Nash, while Nowitzki finished a distant third both seasons. Nowitzki, though, did lead the Mavs to the NBA finals last season, where they lost to Miami in six games.

The only thing that appears capable of stopping Nowitzki and Dallas right now is the All-Star break. Dallas, concluding a three-game trip, has won 19 of 23 on the road since losing its first two away from home this season.

On Thursday, the Mavs will have to contend with McGrady and a surging Houston club that has won eight of its last 10. The Rockets (33-18), though, have lost six of seven against Dallas and are 6-19 in the series since March 3, 2001.

Nowitzki has been key to the Mavs’ success against Houston in that span, averaging 25.3 points and 8.1 rebounds while playing in 23 of those contests. McGrady has faced Dallas just seven times since being acquired by the Rockets in June 2004, averaging 28.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but Houston is just 3-4 in those matchups.

McGrady had a clutch performance of his own Tuesday, scoring 12 of his 28 points in the last 4 minutes of regulation and making a fadeaway jumper over Ron Artest with 1:29 to go in overtime to put the Rockets ahead for good in a 109-104 win over Sacramento.

“When you’re struggling for three quarters, your best player has to take over in the fourth quarter, I don’t care what he has to do,” said McGrady, who missed nine of his first 14 shots. “I knew I was struggling. That’s why I wanted to attack in the fourth quarter.”

McGrady, who also had 12 assists, has been a catalyst for Houston since returning from a sore lower back that sidelined him in a loss to Phoenix on Jan. 17. The All-Star starter is averaging 27.0 points in 11 contests since sitting that game out to help the Rockets improve to 17-7 since losing center Yao Ming to a broken right tibia on Dec. 23.

Forty-year-old Dikembe Mutombo is averaging 5.3 points and 11.2 rebounds since taking over for Yao in the starting lineup.

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