Dallas Mavericks at Houston Rockets (-6.5, 222 o/u)
The Dallas Mavericks (51-35, 23-20 away) staved off elimination in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series with the Houston Rockets (59-27, 31-11 home) on Sunday, earning 121-109 win. Now down 3-1 in the series, Dallas will look to keep its season alive for at least one more day as the series shifts back to Houston tonight for Game 5.
Monta Ellis, who led the Mavs in scoring during the regular season but had been having a quiet playoffs, led the team with 31 points in Game 4. Also hot for the Mavs was J.J. Barea, who put in 17 points with 13 assists playing in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, and Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points and 12 boards).
“We weren’t ready to go home,” said Ellis, who went 13/21 from the floor.
“We’re going to fight,” added Barea. “We’re not going to quit. We’ve got to go to Houston, and we’ve got to bring it back to Dallas.”
Though they gave up 109 points in the win, Dallas made a statement defensively, keeping James Harden to a pedestrian 24 points and Dwight Howard to 13. More importantly, the Rockets were only seven of 31 from beyond the arc.
The Rockets’ stars blamed themselves for the loss.
“We’re very upset about the way we handled ourselves tonight,” Howard said after the game. “It’s not becoming of a championship team. It starts with myself and James. We’ve got to do a better job from the beginning of the game to the end of the game of leading our team.”
Houston coach Kevin McHale chalked up the loss to a lack of hustle. “We didn’t play very well tonight. We scored early in the game and then we went through periods where we just didn’t move the ball, took bad shots. They played harder than we did,” lamented the coach.
Howard was involved in one of the game’s more interesting plays in which the center was thrown to the ground by Mavs guard Devin Harris, who was given a flagrant foul. From that point on, Howard was relatively quiet.
“It’s a big play,” noted Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle. “When you’re at home, you’ve got to keep the energy up, you’ve got to keep the aggression up and you’ve got to do it in a way that’s clean. It was a hard foul. There was no intent to hurt anybody.”
Look for these two high-scoring teams to continue their (relative) emphasis on defense tonight, meaning the under (222) is in play.
(Photo credit: Jose Garcia (Flickr: Dwight Howard And Chandler Parsons) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)