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NBA Playoffs: Houston Rockets Take 2-0 Series Lead Heading To Dallas

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Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard and Josh Smith finish the game for the Rockets with dunk-after-dunk to beat Dallas by 12

After a 118-108 victory by the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, the Rockets came out hot again and beat the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2. Rockets came out blazing and went up by 10, but were matched and trailed by the end of the first quarter. James Harden dominated the 2nd quarter finishing with 16 points in the half and the Rockets led by 3.

111. 169. . 99. 79

After a bloody nose forced Terrence Jones to sit on the bench, Josh Smith came off the sideline and delivered his best game as a Houston Rocket. With three fouls, (which sat him down in the first half) he racked up 7 assists in the fourth quarter and most of those were to his longtime friend Dwight Howard. Howard finished with a monster double-double and the Rockets beat the Mavs 99-111 to take 2 games in this Best-of-7.

Apr 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) drives against Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) in the first half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111 to 99. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups:

The Rockets and Coach McHale went with Jason Terry, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard. No surprise here, this is the Rockets projected playoff starting lineup for the rest of the season. Corey Brewer and Pablo Prigioni both played over 20 minutes off the bench and although J-Smoove sat a lot in the first-half, he played 25 minutes total.

The Mavericks and Coach Carlisle started Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Richard Jefferson, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. The story off of the bench tonight was J.J. Barea who played 33 minutes, he played defense on Harden and hit a three to keep them in reach. Al-Farouq Aminu also played very well in his spurts of playing time, although he definitely didn’t play enough minutes (22).


What Worked…Again

One thing that worked for the Rockets was that Chandler Parsons had zero production, in fact Parsons was in a suit on the sideline for Tuesday’s Game 2.

Now some are worried he will be out for the series, Parsons was a starter and they will rely on Richard Jefferson to fill his spot.

Everyone was excited about the match-up with him returning to Houston and whether he showed up to play or not, the Rockets were ready to take care of his team and they did.

Most of the stats matched up as the game stayed pretty close throughout, at least until the last 5 minutes of the 4th. The main statistical advantage the Rockets had over the Mavs on Tuesday were the assists, leading to the next point…Josh Smith.  The Rockets out-assisted the Mavericks 25-14 and Smith tied his playoff career-high in assists with 9, garnering 7 in the 4th.

This wasn’t the same formula as Game 1 when the two Ex-Mavs Jason Terry and Corey Brewer stood tall against Mark Cuban’s team, they were fairly quiet in Game 2. Instead it was the connection between Howard and Smith that lobbed the Rockets to victory.

Stats for Game 2 between the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks:

Mavericks

46 rebounds – 14 assists – 4 steals – 6 blocks – 8 TO

Rockets

49 rebounds – 25 assist – 5 steals – 5 blocks – 11 TO

“Josh Smith to Dwight Howard for the Alley-oop!”

Many NBA fans that don’t pay attention to the Rockets wouldn’t know that Dwight Howard and Josh Smith played AAU together in Atlanta as teens, or that Howard was in Smith’s wedding. Well it’s true, they have been lobbing alley’s to each other since high school. Both skipped college and went straight to the NBA, remaining friends since then.

When Smith was released by the Pistons, it didn’t take much persuasion to get a contract signed with Houston. Smith mentions in a talk with Fox 26 Houston that he is excited,

“Being able to be reunited with a good friend and one of the best teammates I ever played with,” in Dwight and also, “Playing beside the best two-guard in the game right now in James Harden, what more can you ask for.”

Smith knew he was going to come off the bench when he could have started in numerous places (though rumor has it McHale offered him the option and he insisted he play a bench role), instead he took a pay-cut to play with friends, enjoy basketball and win a championship.

On Tuesday, Smith came into the third quarter determined to change the game. He turned what looked like a dreadful night into one of his best playoff games ever. A near triple-double, 15pts/9ast/8reb, for the veteran not only lifted the Rockets over the Mavs, but had the Toyota Center shaking as he continuously dropped lobs on Dallas’ interior.

If Josh Smith continues playing like this then the Rockets will have a legitimate shot at anyone in the league. Believe it – you’ll want to watch the video below:

Rest for the MVP

Another major plus for the Rockets is that the MVP-candidate James Harden was able to rest in the second half. He did put in plenty of work in the second quarter and put the Rockets up at the half. Fortunately for Coach McHale and Houston, Harden just wasn’t needed down the stretch of the game. Josh Smith played the notorious “Point-Forward” position, dishing and scoring the ball.

Prigioni, Terry and Brewer played a lot of the guard minutes, especially late in the 3rd and the 4th. Harden played 34 minutes which was only two under his regular amount, but fortunately he didn’t have to go over his average in a crucial playoff series.

Watching them OOPs earlier. pic.twitter.com/OjgO5Nfxyp

— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) April 22, 2015

Look for The Beard to be geared up as they take on Dallas in a pivotal Game 3 that the Rockets would love to steal!

Apr 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA;Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives against Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) in the first half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111 to 99. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Top Performers:

Mavericks – Monta Ellis: 24 points, 5 rebounds

Rockets – Dwight Howard: 28 points, 12 rebounds

Final Thoughts

I really hope Josh Smith comes to play like this every night for the Rockets, but that’s not what’s expected from him. Others such as Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry will be the ones called on in upcoming games in which they will really need to step-up. A fairly quiet night from Harden and a miraculous free-throwing shooting display from Howard made for an efficient Rockets win.

Apr 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) celebrates against the Dallas Mavericks in the second half in game two of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Rockets won 111 to 99. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3 and 4 will be in Dallas, where hopefully the Rockets can take control by grabbing one, if not both games and moving on to the next round. Dallas isn’t a team to push under the rug however, the series against them in 2005 went 7-games, but this Rockets team is ready for any challenge thrown their way this season

Game 3 will be at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on Friday, April 26th at 6PM/CT. The Rockets will look to take a 3-0 lead on a divisional rival and move one game closer to a championship!

Check out Game 2’s Player Grades and stay tuned to Space City Scoop for complete Rockets coverage!

Next: Who is the Most Improved?

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