James Harden keyed a sizzling start and, after a sluggish second quarter, the Houston Rockets caught fire again in the third in rolling to a 104-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at American Airlines Center.
Harden finished with 25 points and 13 assists. He tallied nine points on three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Houston started 8-for-8 from the floor, including 6-for-6 from behind the arc. The Rockets shot 59.1 percent in the opening period, drilling 10 of 14 3s while taking a 38-28 lead.
Trevor Ariza added 23 points, hitting 5 of 14 3-pointers. Eric Gordon (17 points, 4 of 7 treys), Clint Capela (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Chris Paul (12 points, seven boards, four assists) all reached double figures for the Rockets, who have won seven of eight games and improved to 6-2 against their Southwest Division foes. Houston finished 21-of-51 from behind the arc.
The Mavericks have dropped four of five. Dallas forward Wesley Matthews stroked a 3 to open the scoring before Harden and Paul responded with treys that provided Houston the lead for good. Matthews finished with a game-high 29 points and converted 7 of 14 3-pointers.
Houston missed its opening nine attempts in the second quarter, enabling the Mavericks to close their deficit to four points. But Ariza and Harden sandwiched driving layups around a pair of 3-pointers, one from Ariza and another from Gordon, as the Rockets reclaimed a double-digit lead. Gordon had missed 16 consecutive 3s over two games against the Warriors and Heat.
Despite missing 29 of 39 shots following their blistering start, the Rockets maintained a 51-45 lead at the break. By the midpoint of the third period, Houston added three 3-pointers plus a three-point play to its ledger and led 67-53. The Rockets stretched their advantage to 18 points in the third quarter and led by as many as 20 before the Mavericks rallied in garbage time.
Guard Yogi Ferrell scored 19 points off the bench for the Mavericks, who shot just 42.7 percent.
--Field Level Media