Mavs beat Rockets for fourth straight win

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- On the eve of the All-Star starters for each conference being announced, the Houston Rockets' backcourt hardly looked All-Star worthy in a 105-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Jeremy Lin missed 1 of 2 free throws in two critical trips to the free-throw line late in the game and then committed a turnover with 15 seconds to play that effectively ended Houston's hopes of snapping a four-game losing skid. James Harden twice failed to convert in the paint when he could have given the Rockets the lead after they trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter.
While Harden, the league's fourth-leading scorer, should be a lock to make the Western Conference All-Star team as a reserve, it's Lin who has a shot to be named a starter in his first season in Houston, which also happens to be the host city for the Feb. 17 All-Star Game at Toyota Center.
At last count in early January, Lin trailed Clippers point guard Chris Paul by about 46,000 votes for second place in fan voting behind the Lakers' Kobe Bryant. The top two vote-getters will start the game.
Lin, who almost certainly won't make the team unless the fans voted him in prior to Monday night's deadline, has not had an All-Star-worthy season and his performance in the Rockets' fifth consecutive defeat was no different. He put together a strong fourth quarter before his critical errors late and finished with 19 points, four assists and four turnovers.
Harden also tried to make amends in the fourth quarter after he was 2-for-11 from the field in the first half and finished. He couldn't make the plays late and finished with 20 points on 5-for-23 shooting, 1-for-8 from beyond the arc and 9-for-12 from the free-throw line, with seven assists and four turnovers.
"James played hard," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He got to the (free throw) line 12 times, had some looks that he'd normally make and missed some, but you're going to have nights like that."
Mavs forward Elton Brand made the defensive play of the game, blocking Harden at the rim as he drove to give Houston the lead.
"Elton's block was huge," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
O.J. Mayo got fouled on a fastbreak the other way and made both free throws to give Dallas a 99-97 lead.
"We really stepped up tonight," Brand said of the Mavs defense. "They lead the league in offense with 105 a game and we tried to keep them under 100. We got big stops, big rebounds and big blocks when we needed it. We did well because they have a heck of an offensive team."
On the next trip down, Lin missed the second of two free throws, failing to tie it.
The Mavs extended their winning streak to a season-best four games and were led by Dirk Nowitzki's 19 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter. Shawn Marion had 18 points to match Mayo as six Mavs scored in double figures.
Harden and Lin were the Rockets' two leading scorers despite their struggles. Houston shot just 39.3 percent as a team, which remarkably topped Dallas' 38.4 percent, but 16 Rockets turnovers led to 24 points for the Mavs, who also held a 34-23 edge at the free-throw line.
"Turnovers. Turnovers, missed layups, missed good shots," McHale said, listing reasons for his team's latest loss. "We just go through some stretches where that comes back and we've got to fight back after that."
Neither team shot well in the first half as both were below 40 percent, but Dallas took advantage of 12 Houston turnovers to lead 52-44 at halftime.
Chandler Parsons had 18 points for Houston, but was held to just two in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs put their four-game win streak, started last week with a 17-point comeback at Sacramento on the line in Friday night's finale to their four-game homestand. They'll face a team hotter than they are in the West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, who have won five in a row.
"I think winning that game (at Sacramento) was a good spark for us," Brand said. "We won four games in a row and we want to keep this momentum going."
NOTES: Dallas has won nine consecutive games against its in-state rival. The Mavs won 116-109 on Dec. 8 in Houston when O.J. Mayo scored a career-high-tying 40 points. ... Mavs owner Mark Cuban said it's possible that the team will sign veteran guard Mike James to a second 10-day contract. His original 10-day contract expires Thursday night. Dallas next plays Friday against Oklahoma City. ... Dallas is on a four-game homestand with the first three opponents playing the second game of a back-to-back. Dallas won them all. ... The Rockets lost at home to the Clippers on Tuesday and are now 4-8 in the second game of back-to-backs, and 0-3 in home-road scenarios. ... The Rockets return to Minnesota on Saturday to play the Timberwolves for the first time since attending the funeral of coach Kevin McHale's daughter on Nov. 28. The team flew to Oklahoma City after the funeral to play the Thunder that night.

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