The Houston Rockets took Mark Cuban's comments about not being a good team besides James Harden to heart as they steamrolled to a 2-0 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks. Josh Smith and Dwight Howard propelled the Rockets to a 111-99 victory Tuesday night, April 22.
The Dallas Mavericks looked to get off to a fast start but were inclined to do so without Chandler Parsons in the starting lineup as concerns raised about his right knee prior to Tuesday's matchup. Parsons will be re-evaluated in Dallas Wednesday, April 23, and the fear is his injury is more long-term than what was expected and may cause him to miss the entire first-round series. Devin Harris also missed the game due to his turf toe still bothering him severely.
The Mavs quickly found themselves in a hole as the Rockets opened on a 7-0 run. Leading scorer Monta Ellis then proceeded to bring his team back, scoring seven points and dishing out two assists to overshadow Dallas’ six turnovers while sliding the Mavericks into the second stanza with a 24-23 edge.
The Mavs continued to hold the upper hand early in the second quarter, most notably J.J Barea. But, after a hard foul delivered by Mavs center Tyson Chandler on Rockets big man Dwight Howard and subsequent technical with 9:23 left in the half, the teams began to get chippy. Rajon Rondo and James Harden got into it themselves towards the end of the first half, but it was the NBA’s number two scorer, James Harden, that would give his team a 53-51 edge into the halftime.
Rajon Rondo gave the Mavericks a rough start to the second half as he picked up a technical foul 10 seconds into the second half for pushing Harden. Rick Carlisle elected to take starting point guard Rajon Rondo out of the game after committing his fourth personal on Harden’s three-point attempt with 11:26 left in the third period. Rondo did not see another minute of playing time the rest of the way and forced the Mavs to play without two of their starting five.
The Rockets looked to gain full control from there as Dwight Howard and forward Josh Smith became a near unstoppable duo on the pick and roll from there on out. Smith became a facilitator, finding teammates Howard and Brewer for ferocious dunks at the basket. But, after falling behind by as many as seven, the Mavs crept back to within one at 81-80 entering the fourth quarter following Ellis’ three-pointer to close the third.
While the Mavericks kept the game close, they had absolutely no answer for Josh Smith as he found Dwight Howard for the alley oop on several occasions down the stretch. The Rockets took advantage of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis' weak side defense as Brewer and Howard found easy buckets. The Mavericks were simply outmatched in all aspects as they went into a dry spell offensively at the worst time of the game and were outscored 30-19 in the fourth quarter.
Monta Ellis led the Mavs in scoring with 24 points but only shot 8-of-23 from the floor while Dirk Nowitzki couldn't buy a basket, shooting just 3-of-14.
Howard led four Rockets with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, grabbing 12 boards to boot. Harden added 24 points on 5 of 17 from the field and 11 for 11 at the foul line, in addition to five rebounds and six assists. The Rockets also outshot the Mavs for the game, 44.3 percent to 37.1 percent, in addition to a 49-46 rebounding edge.
The Rockets now have a commanding 2-0 hold on this series, and the Mavericks have more questions than answers at this point. With Chandler Parsons status up in the air and Rajon Rondo causing more headaches than anything, this may be a situation too much for even Rick Carlisle to figure out.
The Mavericks will look to bounce back at home Friday night, April 25, in Game 3 at the American Airlines Center.