Rockets hope to take out Mavs

( – The Houston Rockets will try for a sweep of their Texas
rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, when the two meet Sunday night at American
Airlines Center in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

The Rockets have built a 3-0 series lead with a pair of home wins and an
entertaining victory in Big D Friday night. Houston prevailed in Game 3,
130-128, in a game dominated by offense and superstars.

James Harden and Dwight Howard set playoff career highs on Friday night and
the Rockets needed every bit of their production.

Harden netted 42 points, Howard snatched 26 rebounds and the Rockets can go
for their first sweep in the postseason since 1997 when they eliminated the
Minnesota Timberwolves in three games. First-round series were five games back
then. Houston hasn’t advanced in the playoffs since a six-game victory over
the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round in 2009.

No team has squandered a 3-0 lead in NBA history.

After Harden found a huge crease along the left wing, he slashed through it
and layed the ball in for a three-point play and a 127-123 Houston lead with
56.8 seconds left.

Dirk Nowitzki exhibited a nice use of the pump fake and was fouled on a right
wing 3-pointer at the other end before sinking all three free throws.

Harden then knocked down a step-back left elbow jumper over Tyson Chandler
which bounced in and out, ricocheted off the glass and rattled in to put
Houston up 129-126 with 12.9 ticks to play.

“I was reading his feet and he was looking for the drive,” Harden said. “I
gave him a step-back.”

Monta Ellis answered by lofting a high-arching floater high off the glass and
over the outstretched arms of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer split a pair of foul
shots at the other end with seven ticks on the clock.

Ellis, though, couldn’t come through as his jumper from the top of the key
over Smith was nowhere close to the rim and bounced off the right side of the

“We didn’t get a great shot on it so that’s on me,” Mavericks coach Rick
Carlisle said.

The MVP candidate Harden was 15-of-24 from the floor, knocked down 5-of-7 from
beyond the arc and sunk all seven of his free throws. He had connected on just
9-of-28 shots from the field over the first two games of this set.

“They were giving me lanes and letting me be aggressive,” Harden said.

Smith scored 18 points and Howard added 13 for the Rockets. Eleven of Howard’s
rebounds came on the offensive glass and helped Houston rack up a 28-15 edge
in second-chance points.

“I just tried getting all the rebounds,” Howard said. “The one thing I can
always control is the paint.”

Nowitzki and Ellis each poured in 34 points for Dallas, which played without
Rajon Rondo after he sustained a back injury in Game 2.

Carlisle announced Wednesday that he didn’t think Rondo would play for Dallas
again. This came after Rondo didn’t play nearly the entire second half of Game

Game 5, if needed, will be in Houston on Tuesday night.