11-21-07 - The Dallas Mavericks are developing a dangerous tendency of falling into double-digit deficits.
So far, they've gotten away with it.
Devin Harris scored 22 points and converted a key three-point play in the closing minutes, and the Mavericks rallied from far back for the second straight game to beat the Houston Rockets 100-94 on Wednesday night.
Dirk Nowitzki shook off a slow start to score 18 points and grab 14 rebounds for the Mavericks, who overcame a 24-point deficit to beat Toronto on Tuesday night.
Just like in that one, the experienced Mavs didn't panic.
"We don't like to make habits out of that," Harris said. "But we're a veteran team and we don't get discouraged easily."
Yao Ming had 30 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks for the Rockets. Tracy McGrady added 15 points and 12 assists in his first game back from a sprained right elbow that kept him out a week.
The Rockets led 74-57 late in the third quarter, and were up 90-84 after Rafer Alston hit a 3-pointer with 3:13 left in the game. Nowitzki drove for a basket 20 seconds later as the Mavs launched a finishing 16-4 burst.
Stackhouse made a 3-pointer from a corner to cut the Rockets' lead to 91-89. Yao missed at the other end before Harris scored on a drive and took a hard hit from Yao with 34 seconds left. Harris hit the free throw to put the Mavs up 92-91.
The 6-foot-3 Harris was looking to pass to Nowitzki, but had the option to drive straight at the 7-foot-6 Yao.
"That was the play," Harris said with a smile. "The play was to go at Yao. If he switched, then isolate him and attack him. If he didn't switch, Dirk would've been open at the top. He happened to switch and I think I can beat him to the basket with a couple of dribbles."
McGrady missed a jumper and Stackhouse swooped in for the rebound. He was immediately fouled by Yao and sank both free throws with 23 seconds remaining.
Stackhouse hit two more free throws in the closing seconds for the Mavs, who've won five in a row over Houston.
"We kept plugging, kept plugging," Stackhouse said. "We've been battle-tested. We really don't fear any situation."
The Rockets have lost five in a row, their longest losing streak since March 2006, when they dropped six straight. They've lost four of their past five by six points or fewer.
This one was especially painful, because the Rockets appeared to be in control.
"With two minutes left, we had a five-point lead," Yao said. "I think that's happened before. We made mistakes again. The game was in hand and we let it slip away."
McGrady, wearing a white protective sleeve on his elbow, missed his first two shots before hitting a jumper with 4:40 left in the first quarter. He then drove past Stackhouse for a two-handed dunk that put Houston up 24-16.
McGrady said he was feeling the aftereffects of the elbow injury, which affected some nerves in his arm. He finished 6-for-19 and said he lost sensation in two of his fingers during the game.
"That was bothering me all night," he said.
Josh Howard had nine points in the first quarter -- the rest of the Mavs missed 10 of 16 shots.
While McGrady rested on the bench, the Rockets maintained a lead through the first half of the second quarter. But Harris hit a short jumper and sank two free throws to tie the game and Stackhouse finished a fast break with a layup to give Dallas its first lead at 41-39.
McGrady went 2-for-9 in the first half and the Mavs led 47-46. But Nowitzki was also off his game, going 3-of-6 for seven points.
The Rockets opened the second half with a 19-4 run, as Dallas missed 13 of its first 15 shots out of the break. Throughout the third quarter, everything seemed to be going the Rockets' way.
McGrady banked in a 3-pointer and gave a playful shrug to the fans at courtside. Late in the quarter, Harris wrapped up McGrady on a drive and the two faced off for a moment as McGrady stepped to the free-throw line. He made one of two to give Houston its biggest lead at 74-57.