Friday , Apr , 29 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Big D: Nowitzki, Mavs beat Rockets

Houston, TX (Sports Network) – Dirk Nowitzki scored a team-high 28 points as
Dallas used a 20-0 fourth quarter run to secure a crucial 106-102 victory over
Houston in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at the Toyota
Center.

A 46-percent shooter, Nowitzki struggled mightily in the first two games of
this series, connecting on just 32.5 percent of his attempts as Dallas
lost both contests.

On Thursday, Nowitzki went off, hitting 9-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-10
from the free throw line for Dallas, which could even this best-of-seven
series with a victory in Game 4 on Saturday.

Michael Finley netted 20 points, Jerry Stackhouse had 18 off the bench and
Jason Terry contributed 13 for the Mavericks, who shot 49 percent from the
field, hit 32-of-37 free throws and forced 15 turnovers.

“I just tried to stay aggressive,” Nowitzki said. “I felt good in the morning
at the shootaround and felt good in the warm-ups…I made a couple of shots
early which usually helps my confidence.”

Leading Houston, which beat the Mavericks 98-86 in Game 1 and 113-111 in Game
2, was Tracy McGrady with 28 points, nine boards and six assists.

Yao Ming, who was 13-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 7-for-7 from the
foul line in Game 2, found himself in early foul trouble and finished with 15
points and 10 rebounds.

Bob Sura posted career-playoff-highs with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six
assists, while David Wesley hit five three-pointers en route to 17 points in
the loss.

“Dallas played really well, we didn’t play quite as well.” Houston coach Jeff
Van Gundy said before adding, “102 points has got to hold up at home. It’s
gotta hold up. Again, the formula for winning has never changed and it starts
with defense, rebounding and solid ball handling. And we didn’t have the first
or the third one.”

After Houston used a huge third quarter to claim a five-point advantage,
83-78, heading into the final 12 minutes, Dallas responded in kind with a
20-0 run to seize a 100-88 edge with less than three minutes in the game.

The burst featured a Nowitzki dunk sandwiched between a layup and a three-
pointer by Finley. Terry added five points, Erick Dampier slammed a dunk,
Stackhouse chipped in a free throw and Josh Howard scored five straight
points as the Mavs cruised to the win.

“Their defense in that (20-0) run was great,” Van Gundy said. “Our defense in
that (20-0) run was poor.”

“I think down the stretch we made some good adjustments,” Nowitzki said.
“Defensively we got some big stops, and offensively, I think we made some big
shots.”

With Dallas leading 54-49 at halftime, the Rockets came out of the locker room
red hot and hustling. Houston hit 9-of-its-first-12 field goal attempts of the
quarter, outscoring Dallas 21-6 in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the period en
route to a 70-60 cushion. Wesley swished a pair of three-pointers and McGrady
scored six points during the run.

Houston continued to front-run 75-69 with 2 1/2 minutes to go in the third
quarter, which ended with the Rockets leading 83-78.

The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair with the teams trading runs.
Dallas dashed to an 11-4 lead less than four minutes into the action before
Houston responded with a 23-13 run to take a 27-24 advantage with a little
more than two minutes to play. However, the Mavs closed the first quarter with
an 8-0 spurt to take a 32-27 edge after the first 12 minutes.

Dallas stretched its advantage to double digits in the second quarter, however
Houston pulled to within five, 54-49, by halftime.

McGrady had 15 points at the break, while Nowitzki netted 14.

Houston, which is 7-0 when it leads a playoff series 2-0, has history on its
side, as only the LA Lakers in 1969 and Houston in 1994 have come back from an
0-2 deficit to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games at
home…This is the second time Dallas and Houston have met in the postseason.
In 1988, the Mavericks eliminated the Rockets, 3-1, in the first
round…During the regular season, the teams split four games as each club
picked up a win at home and on the road…Dallas lost the first two games to
Sacramento in last year’s playoffs and was eliminated in five games…Mavs
forward Keith Van Horn left the game in the second quarter with an ankle
injury.

DAL HOU