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Dallas Mavericks 123, Houston Rockets 120: Where’s the defense?

In a near playoff atmosphere, the Rockets crumbled under pressure in the 4th quarter.  Leading by 14 to start the 4th, the Rockets defense disappeared. Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki scored at will in the final frame as the Mavs outscored Houston 36 to 19.  The defensive weaknesses were very apparent and will have to be solved to beat good teams.  Dallas is a very good offensive team with Nowitzki, Ellis, Carter and Calderon able to hit big shots in the clutch.

As the clock wound down, Nowitzki hit shot after shot on Jones.  Jones wasn’t effective on Nowitzki, Dirk shot 13 of 20 for 35 points. Monta Ellis shot 13 of 18 for 37 points.  The Maverick veterans showed why coaches love the experienced players in clutch time.  It was Ellis, Nowitzki and Carter dominating our young guys at the end of the game.

The Rockets offense froze in the final quarter.   No one wanted to take the big shot and the ball kept ending up in Harden’s hands with the shot clock running down.  It turned out to be like last year, Harden in isolation at the end of the game and everyone on defense keying on him.  He shot only 2 for 8 from behind the arc.

Parsons was dominating in the first half and then disappeared in the final quarter.  Chandler had 21 points and 11 assists but was MIA in clutch time. This was a good dress rehearsal for the playoffs.  The Mavs haven’t lost at home this year and are a tough out.  Let’s chalk this one up to a learning experience and hope to come out better prepared to deal with close games like this as the year progresses.

Howard had his best game of the season by far, making Dalembert look like his shoes were nailed to the ground.  The first three quarters, the Mavs left Dalembert one on one with Howard and he hit his first 11 shots.  He went 9 of 13 from the line and took the Hack a Howard strategy out of play by hitting his free throws.  Hack a Howard was used only once in the game with 3 minutes left in the third and he hit both free throws.  But, by the 4th quarter the Mavs started double teaming, shutting down the inside game and the Rockets couldn’t hit from the outside.  Howard finished with 33 points and 11 boards.

Lin was a non factor in this game.  He didn’t hit one field goal and ended up with one point in 17 minutes of play.  His +/- was a -10.  His shot looked short and McHale went with Beverley for 37 minutes.  Beverley’s defense was probably one of the reasons he got so much time, but he couldn’t do anything to stop Ellis.  Our youth showed in our guard play tonight.  Often this season that youth is a plus, but tonight it killed the Rockets.

Asik came in early and played 12 minutes and grabbed 5 boards.  But, with Howard earning all those millions with his stellar play, Asik only came in to spell Howard temporarily.  The Rockets do not have a defensive stopper and that may be what they need to look for if they trade Asik.  This game was a tragedy to lose, and they wasted Howard’s best game of the season.

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About the author: Eric Nielsen is the owner of Lotushouse Records, an English major from SDSU, a basketball player and life-long passionate Rockets fan. He’s been following the team since the days of Moses Malone, Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy.

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