The Mavericks stayed alive with 121-109 game four win.
The Rockets had a sweep in their sights after an offensive explosion in the first quarter thanks to 10 points each from Harden and Howard. The Rockets shot 68% and held a nine-point lead heading into the second.
Then, much like in game three, Houston couldn’t buy a bucket in the second. The Rockets went 6-22 FG in the quarter and just 2-14 3PT for the half. Dallas outscored Houston 36-19 in the second and held an eight-point lead at the half.
“I don’t think we came with the effort and energy that we needed tonight. We have to let this one go and put it behind us, it was an ugly game. We started it pretty well, then it got ugly, so we have to let this one go,” Howard said.
The Rockets continued to struggle and missed 12 straight shots to open the third. During this cold stretch, Dallas built as large as a 24-point lead behind a spark from J.J. Barea – who finished the game with 17 points.
“We couldn’t get Barea stopped at all. Our coverages were really loose. And they just played harder than us. That is the bottom line. They played with more desperation. They played harder than we did. Bottom line is they deserved to win that game more than we did,” Kevin McHale said.
Josh Smith got hot in the fourth and hit a payoff career-high four three-pointers to get the Rockets within nine with four minutes left.
Corey Brewer also contributed with a playoff career-high 22 points off the bench.
However, the Mavericks and their 52-38 rebounding edge keep their foot on the pedal. Monta Ellis scored a game-high 31 points and the Rockets missed 14 free throws on their way to the 12-point loss.
Game five will be in Houston on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.