James Harden set a career playoff high of 42 points while Dwight Howard set his personal post season best with 26 rebounds, as the Rockets overcame some poor first half defense to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in a 130 - 128 victory. The Rockets now go up 3 - 0 on Dallas, and no team in NBA history has overcome that large a deficit in a playoff series.
The best and most competitive game of the series was played at a blistering, back-and-forth pace, as the Rockets scored 42 points in the first quarter (their most in a quarter this season) only to see the Mavs hit right back and gain a 72 - 65 half time lead (the most points the Rockets have given up in a half this season) in what seemed more like the box score for an All-Star game instead of a playoff game.
Despite a career night from Monta Ellis (34 points and 9 assists, both also career playoff highs) and Dirk Nowitzki finding the fountain of youth (34 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) after a sluggish game 2, the Rockets managed to do just enough down the stretch with a deeper roster to keep the Mavs at bay and stick a devastating dagger into the Dallas season. All that's left is to cut off the head in game 4.
In addition to Harden's 42 points on 15 - 24 shooting, The Beard also shot 5 - 7 from three, 7 - 7 from the line and had 9 assists and 5 rebounds. Dwight had 13 points, 2 blocks and 2 steals to go along with his milestone night on the boards.
The Rockets also got 18 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists from Josh Smith and 15 points and 3 rebounds from Corey Brewer, as they lead the Rockets second unit with their trademark fire and athleticism.
The Rockets utilized our keys to victory down to a T in this one, as the two Houston superstars were complimented by solid free throw shooting from the front court when Howard, Smith, Terrence Jones, and Clint Capela shot a combined 14 - 18 from the line and also generally dominated their Mavs counterparts with their physicality and versatility.
The Rockets advantage in the front court helped them snag 17 offensive rebounds, and their defense turned up the heat when needed. Despite giving up 128 points and allowing the Mavs to shoot 52 percent from the field, the Rockets held Dallas to 1 - 4 shooting with under a minute left in the game to seal the deal.
One can't help but feel the Rockets withstood the Mavs biggest haymaker (J.J. Barea, really?) and still came out of Friday night's game with an insurmountable series lead. An unexpected sweep could easily be on the horizon on Sunday.