Rockets Collapse in 4th: Fall to Mavs 123 - 120

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets couldn't keep up with their own blistering offensive pace in the fourth quarter. The Dallas Mavericks outscored the Rockets by 17 points in the final period to steal a victory despite Dwight Howard's season-high 33 points.

The Houston Rockets played three quarter of outstanding offense and they played four quarter of atrocious defense. The result is a last minute Mavericks victory, 123 - 120.

Five Rockets scored in double figures. Dwight posted a season high 33 points on 12 of 16 shooting from the floor and 9 of 13 shooting from the line.

Chandler Parsons paced the Rockets and made Hubie Brown wax poetic while matching his career high for assists (21 pts, 11 ast, 5 rb). He was 4 - 5 shooting threes, a welcome development after a season of questionable three point shooting.

In the end, the Rockets need to have a serious conversation about what they envision their fourth quarters looking like.

Games against the 76ers, Raptors, Clippers and now the Mavericks have all seen the Rockets effortlessly cede the fourth quarter. In three of these games the Rockets held a lead going into the fourth quarter. They've won one of these.

We know the Rockets are not a defensive powerhouse and we live or die by outscoring our opponent. But what's the plan for when our shooting goes cold in the fourth quarter? Right now the team seems content to leave the defensive intensity setting on "slapass" and lose these games.

Dirk Nowtizki and Monta Ellis deserve a hearty Mark Cuban high five after both posting quality games and hanging around long enough to get a chance to strike.

The Game:

Halfway through the second quarter the guy writing this column thought he would be able to copy and paste the recap from the Rockets - Celtics game. Against the Celtics the Rockets led by over 20 points most of the night and found double digit scoring from nearly everyone on the Rockets roster.

Tonight the Rockets scored 40 first quarter points. Three pointers were splashing through a basket that appeared two inches wider than regulation.

Dwight Howard and Omri Casspi were both perfect in the first half. Terrence Jones looked the part of giant killer by scoring 7 first quarter points while guarding Dirk. The Rockets front court (Howard - Jones - Parsons) missed three shots in the first half.

68 first half points.

The Rockets held their own in the third quarter. They dropped 33 points and outpaced the Mavs by 7 points in the quarter. The third quarter is most notable for Dwight Howard's post game. He got plenty of looks in the post and showed some deft moves to the basket that didn't leave the entire stadium cringing.

Then we got to the fourth quarter. It's unclear if the Rockets made a request to the NBA to skip the fourth quarter. If they didn't, they should have.

All game the Rockets had employed their now standard Patrick Swayze defense (ghost). In the fourth quarter the Mavericks found their offensive stride and went wild.

Dirk Nowitzki missed a single shot in the fourth quarter on his way to 35 points which only built upon a 37 point performance from Monta Ellis.

The Rockets lead dwindled as the Mavericks made the most of Houston turnovers and shut down the easy consistent fast break points and points-in-the-paint the Rockets had found all game.

The game reached a crescendo when a Shawn Marion dunk created a one point game and the Rockets called timeout.

Coming out of the timeout with a minute remaining on the clock Chandler Parsons tore down the baseline and had a contested layup rim out.

The Mavericks responded with a Monta Ellis drive leading to a Shawn Marion signature "T-Rex three pointer" from the corner. It put the Mavericks up two.

Predictably James Harden went into hero-ball mode. Harden and Ellis then exchanged missed three pointers. Harden composed himself and went to the rack for a foul from Dalembert.

He made the first free throw. Now down by one.

He missed the second free throw. Still down by one.

The Rockets fouled Jose Calderon who drained both for a three point lead.

On the ensuing play, with 8 seconds on the clock, the Rockets went to Harden who missed a contested three. Casspi tipped the miss out to Beverley who got straight up mugged. Unable to get a shot up, the game ended.

The Offense:

Tonight’s game is emblematic of the offensive options the Rockets have with Dwight Howard. The first half witnessed a fair diet of Howard picks. He rolled on some of them, but the majority saw his man stay on the outside as he crashed. A swing pass from Harden would then lead to a Chandler Parsons thrown alley oop.

In the first half Howard received the ball in the low post just twice (by my count). In the second half the majority of Howard's production came from the post. He made moves to the basket quicker than past games and found himself quality looks over a lost and confused Samuel Dalembert.

We play best when we are moving the ball in the half court set. Slashing to the basket and kicking the ball out created numerous open three point looks. In the first half Harden was the recipient of these as Parsons moved to the basket.

That Chandler Parsons. He's good looking and a generous passer.

Personnel:

In each of the prior two Rockets games, Donatas Motiejunas scored in double digits. Tonight he didn't touch the floor. McHale seems confident in his bench and set on adjusting his rotation for each opponent. Here's what I noticed.

Terrence Jones & Omri Casspi need to learn how to conserve their greatness. Each went on big first half rushes that they followed with bouts of overreaching. If you go 4 for 4 from the field, that's amazing. You're still on a team where you're the fourth offensive option at best. Don't go one on three in a half court set. Pass the ball.

Donatas Motiejunas received a DNP. The reason has to be Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. Both of these guys would absolutely torch the defensively challenged D-Mo. Even the older Marion would blow by D-Mo, whose defensive footwork often looks like a duckling walking on ice.

Omer Asik returned to action tonight. Dwight Howard sat for 6 minutes in each half and Omer filled the time nobly. He grabbed 5 rebounds in 12 minutes but looked lost on offense. He took out his anger on Jae Crowder by blocking a shot into the stands in the third quarter.

Jeremy Lin looked lost tonight. If this were soccer I'd say he suffered from a bad "first touch." In 17 minutes he went 0 - 5 from the field and didn't come close to making any of his attempts, there were two airballs. Lin averaged 22 ppg over a 5 game stretch this month -- Didn't seem like it tonight.

The end of the game saw an interesting and irregular chess game. With a one point lead Rick Carlise put two guards far in the back court during an inbound play. This allowed his guards to create separation to get the ball and waste some clock. To counter McHale took Terrence Jones off the court, who had been trusted (or mistrusted) with guarding Dirk Nowitzki earlier in the game. McHale instead went with Lin and Beverley in the backcourt.

Down three points the Rockets went with an all shooter lineup. Parsons inbounded the ball, but McHale awkwardly left Dwight Howard off the court, opting for Casspi instead. Will Howard make a game tying three pointer? Absolutely not. Having Dwight on the floor on the final play lets you set a back breaking pick on someone or create a quick inbound and pass back option.

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