The Rockets dunked their way to a 2-0 series lead with a 111-99 win over the Mavericks.
The Rockets clinged to a one-point lead heading into the fourth after building multiple seven-point leads. Houston turned the ball over six times in the third (12 total) and despite nine points from Josh Smith in the quarter, they appeared to be sputtering to the finish line after a Monta Ellis buzzer-beating three.
Then the lobs happened.
Smith found Dwight Howard for five thunderous alley-oops and racked up seven of his playoff career-high-tying nine assists in the fourth quarter.
“The 4th quarter group got in there and did a tremendous job. Josh was finding guys and they were cutting. Guys were moving for him. He and Dwight had some beautiful hook ups on lob passes, and he just did a wonderful job of getting into spots and making the next play and breaking down the defense,” Kevin McHale said.
Howard had already been having a great night with 17 points and eight rebounds through three, but Smith’s assists helped him finish with a game-high 28 points along with 12 boards and two blocks.
“I’m just happy we got the win. I’m going to do whatever I can when I’m on the floor to help my teammates and just try to be a big presence on both ends of the floor. I don’t care about how many points I get, my job is to make sure I dominate the paint,” Howard said.
Howard now has 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in seven of his eight playoff games as a Rocket.
The Rockets finished with 14 total dunks – tied for the most in a single game in the last 15 postseasons (per ESPN Stats & Info).
James Harden had 20 points through three, but sat for his usual rest to start the fourth when the Rockets built as large as a 14-point lead. He finished with 24 for his 19th career playoff game with 20+ points.
“Personally, for myself, I didn’t think I had any rhythm the entire game but that’s what teammates are for. Those guys did a tremendous job of stepping up and making big plays. That fourth quarter was a great example of what your teammates are for. They changed the game around. They won the game for us and I’m proud of those guys,” Harden said.
In addition, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry followed up their big game one performances with 15 points and 10 points, respectively.
The Rockets head to Dallas for game three Friday night at 6:00 p.m. Houston is 8-2 in franchise history in series in which it held a 2-0 lead.
“We did what we were supposed to do. Win, take care of home court advantage. Now the series really starts. We will go on the road in a tough environment. We’ve got to do a good job of taking care of business,” Harden said.