Rockets try to put away Mavs in Houston

( – The Houston Rockets can close out the Dallas Mavericks
Tuesday night when Game 5 of their first-round series returns to the Toyota

The Mavericks pulled out Game 4 in Dallas, down 3-0.

It’s been an interesting series for the Mavs. Chandler Parsons gave it a go,
but was sidelined for the season with a knee injury, then the whole Rajon
Rondo situation unfolded.

Trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series is as good a time as any to
make adjustments to your starting lineup.

J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu each contributed double-doubles in their first
starts of the postseason and Monta Ellis scored 31 points as the Mavericks
held off the Rockets 121-109.

After struggling in the first two games of this series — both double-digit
Rockets wins — Ellis poured in 34 points with nine assists in Game 3. He had
a chance to put that game in overtime, but was off the mark with a jumper from
the top of the key at the end of regulation.

“Relentless – non-stop, relentless, next play mentality, [and] good or bad he
kept playing, and he kept charging forward like a freight train. And, that’s
who he is – he’s an attacker through and through, and that’s what we need him
to be,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.

Barea posted 17 points and 13 assists and brought life to the Dallas starting
lineup. Aminu added 16 points, including five straight midway through the
fourth quarter during a Houston rally that kept the momentum with Dallas, and
12 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki netted 16 points and Tyson Chandler pulled down a
game-high 14 boards.

“Give them credit. They played the way you have to play,” said Rockets coach
Kevin McHale. “They didn’t want to lose at home and they came out and played
like it. They beat us inside and got offensive rebounds.”

The Mavericks won the second quarter in Game 3 by 13 points and led that game
at halftime, but Houston flipped the script in the third on their way to a
130-128 win.

Dallas dominated the second once again on Sunday, this time winning the period
by 17 points, but instead of folding out of the break, Ellis and the Mavericks
put the game away.

Ellis scored 10 points during the 20-4 flurry to start the second half,
including a reverse in transition to cap the run at 4:35 and force a timeout.
That basket pushed the lead to 24. Houston chipped away from there, with Josh
Smith leading a fourth-quarter charge that made things interesting.

Smith’s personal 8-0 run, which spanned just over a minute from 5:43, had the
Rockets within 109-99. His 3-ball with just under four minutes to play made it
a nine-point game.

But it was too little, too late for the second-seeded Rockets. Ellis followed
two Nowitzki free throws with a short jumper at 1:54, and Houston emptied its
bench after that.

James Harden paced Houston with 24 points, while Smith and Corey Brewer gave
23 and 22 off the bench, respectively.

Game 6, if necessary, will be Thursday night in Dallas.