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NBA Playoffs: 2 Ex-Mavericks Lead Houston Rockets to Game 1 Victory

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Right out of the gate the Houston Rockets took charge building a 9-2 lead forcing Dallas Maverick head coach Rick Carlisle to call a time-out. Though the Mavericks fought back to tie the game and did manage to take the lead at one point, the entire game felt like it was in the Rockets hands all day.

79. 118. 169. . 108

Top Performers:

Dallas:

Dirk Nowitzki: 24 Points, 8 Rebounds, 2 Assists, SIX turnovers

Tyson Chandler: 11 Points, 18 Rebounds (8 Offensive Rebounds), 2 Steals, 1 Block

Biggest Surprise: color me shocked, Rajon Rondo started the game the way I expected, but he actually picked it up in the second quarter and was mostly responsible for the Mavericks come back. He played pesky defense on James Harden and appeared to have summoned the Celtic Championship form many were calling for.And then he did what I expected in the second half (not much of anything). Al-Farouq Aminu and JJ Barea also gave Carlisle good minutes, but like Rondo the Rockets seemed to be able to counter whatever punch Carlisle and the Mavericks threw at them.

Biggest Let Down: If the Mavericks want to compete in this series they’ll need more from Monta Ellis who spent big portions of the game seemingly pulling a disappearing act. Credit the Rocket’s defense.

Houston:

James Harden: 24 Points, 11 Assists, 2 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 15 of 17 from line, 2 Turnovers. Shooting: 4 of 11 FG, 1 of 5 from three

Trevor Ariza: 12 Points, 11 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 3 Steals

Jason Terry: 16 Points 4 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 2 Steals

Biggest Surprise:

Terrence Jones delivered on both ends of the court and his 6 assists were a shock. He also added 19 points, 9 rebounds (4 offensive) and a steal. Seeing these type of performances from him makes it clearer how much Harden deserves to win MVP given it’s reasonable to assume his presence would have helped the Rockets grab at least a few additional wins this season.

Apr 15, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) attempts a free throw during the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Of note, after an entire season where we barely got to see Isaiah Canaan (when he was still a rocket), KJ McDaniels or Clint Capela, I have to say it was a bit of a shock McHale brought in Capela to play as the first big off the bench to replace Dwight Howard. The French man didn’t look overwhelmed by the moment which should bode well moving forward in the series.

Game MVP:

Corey Brewer  15 Points, 3 of 4 from three. Brought his A game to the court Saturday and the only reason he earns MVP over Jason Terry was due to the timing of Brewer’s offensive production. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.  In fact, his back to back three pointers in the fourth literally pushed the dagger into the Mavericks’ chests ending any hope they had of coming back.

Biggest Disappointment:

While I’m happy to see Dwight Howard with a pep in his step and those 3 blocks in the first 5 minutes were awesome he needs to be and act like a leader. When he kept picking up fouls he didn’t adjust his game and several times other players had to calm him down on the sidelines. The fact McHale could only play him for 17 minutes because of foul trouble is on him. The fact he was off the floor allowed Tyson Chandler to grab 18 rebounds and 8 offensive boards. Had the Rockets not been winning as easily as they were or the Mavericks gotten hot from behind the arc and ended up winning the loss (in my opinion) would have been on him.

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Stat Highlights:

Fast Break Points: Houston had 29 to Dallas 21

Points in Paint: Dallas had 58 to Rockets 50

Free Throws: Houston totally dominated going to the line 45 times (hit 32) to the Mavericks 17 attempts (hit 14)

Turnovers: Shockingly the Mav’s who are one of the best at taking care of the ball had 17 turnovers leading to 23 Rockets points while Houston who are one of the leagues worst only turned over the ball 13 times leading to 17 Dallas points.

Intangibles: The Rockets had more blocks (9 to 4) steals (11 to 5) and moved the ball better which was obvious based on their assists (26 to 19)

Game Notes:

  • The Rockets jumped on the Mavericks right out of the gate building a 9-2 lead which led to a quick time-out by Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle
  • Several times throughout the game we saw Carlisle get annoyed with his players poor defense and late in the game when Capela scored (easily) Nowitzki and Chandler appeared to have heated words on the floor.
  • Chandler Parsons played despite his sore knee, and had to leave the game following a dunk which appeared to aggravate the knee. He had a towel in his mouth biting down on it in pain and subsequently left the court for the trainer to take a better look at it. Though he did return he never seemed to have the same pep he started the game with. Perhaps a lay-in would have been wiser for the ex-Rocket given the six games he just missed entering the post season.
  • As mentioned McHale shockingly put in Capela as the first big off the bench and the young kid produced. He missed a few defensive sets, but given the dramatics of the moment i.e. playing in his first playoffs he handled himself well.
  • Harden’s shot was off, but he did what was necessary involving his teammates or driving the paint to get to the line. Doubtful he’ll be that off on Tuesday as he tends to follow up poor shooting nights with great ones.
  • Devin Harris is still injured, he played 10 minutes in the first half, but didn’t see the court in the second half. This could prove to be a big factor moving forward.
  • The ex-Mavericks who won a championship in Dallas set the tone to start the game (Terry) and finish it (Brewer). They were the story of the game in what felt like it could have easily been a 20 point blow-out.

I know I shouldn’t get too hyped about the win as Carlisle is a master at dealing with adjustments, but it really does feel like Houston is the superior team. When Carlisle went to the Hack-A-Capela McHale responded by fouling Rondo (on a non shooting foul) hinting that if he kept it up Rondo would find himself at the free throw line. Moving forward we should expect to see more of this, but on this night the ploy was unsuccessful in registering an advantage for Dallas.

One of the funniest moments of the night was saved for the post game interviews when Dirk took out his frustration on a microphone:

The teams demonstrated who they are: Mavericks are great offensively but terrible defensively and that ended up being obvious as even when Carlisle went to a small line-up the Rockets’ small line-up killed them because they are faster, better rebounders and better defensively. It makes for a difficult adjustment by the Mavericks since the Brewer, Smith, Ariza line-up is going to eat the Mav’s for breakfast on the boards, turn them over and kill them in transition.

In a recent podcast I predicted the Rockets would win in 6, and said if Rockets play how they are capable this shouldn’t be a long series despite Dirk and Monta’s capabilities.  I could be way off base, but it honestly feels like getting the 2-seed was a huge blessing especially if Houston takes care of business early and then sit back waiting for the Spurs and Clippers to beat each other up.

Game 2 takes place Tuesday at Toyota Center in Houston, start time is 9:30 ET. Check back with us Tuesday morning for the pregame report.

Next: Who'll win the series?

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