Jose Calderon missed two three-pointers at the end of regulation as the Houston Rockets (31-17) barely escaped the American Airlines Center with a 117-115 victory over the Dallas Mavericks (26-21) on Wednesday night.
Dirk Nowitzki had a massive double-double of 38 points and 17 rebounds for Dallas. He didn't get much help from any of his fellow starters who combined to shoot 9-of-34 from the field, so Nowitzki's outstanding night went to waste in a big way.
The Mavericks went on an 11-1 run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to close the gap, but their comeback fell just a little bit short.
Houston nearly choked the game away after possessing a 12-point lead with three minutes left in the game. The team was led by Chandler Parsons and his 26 points, while Dwight Howard chipped in 21 of his own.
Dwight Howard, Center
When these two teams last met on Dec. 23, Dwight Howard completely had his way down low against Samuel Dalembert, scoring 29 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.
This time around, it was deja vu all over again. From a strength and agility standpoint, Dalembert never stood a chance against Houston's Superman.
Dallas tried throwing an extra defender at Howard in the second half, but to no avail.
He wasn't as big a force on the glass as he probably would have liked to have been, but he made up for that with terrific footwork and consistent scoring with his back to the basket.
Can we please stop with the Hack-A-Dwight strategy? If he even hits one of his two attempts at the charity stripe, it basically doesn't work.
Besides, he hit 9-of-11 anyways.
Chandler Parsons, Small Forward
I like it's about time Chandler Parsons became recognized as the third star on this Houston Rockets team in the same breath as James Harden and Dwight Howard.
From start to finish, Parsons was the Rockets best player, providing energy on both ends of the floor.
He even threw down a beautiful slam dunk as the third quarter came to a close. By that point, Parsons had already scored 24.
His hot streak cooled off in the fourth quarter, but he still managed to finish with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Not too shabby.
I'm sure he'd like another crack at that inbounds pass to Aaron Brooks late in the fourth quarter though.
Jeremy Lin, Shooting Guard
With James Harden out of the starting lineup with an injured thumb on his shooting hand, Jeremy Lin took over in the backcourt for the second-straight game.
Prior to Wednesday, the Rockets were 4-1 on the season with Lin starting alongside Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard.
He sure made the most of his minutes in this one, playing in attack mode early and putting up points in a hurry. Lin had already attempted seven shots and hit two three-pointers for 10 points after one quarter.
Lin teetered on triple-double territory with 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, proving how versatile a player he can be.
Harden will return sooner rather than later, but it's reassuring knowing that if he were to ever miss a prolonged period of time, Lin could step up and fill in nicely in his absence.
Terrence Jones, Power Forward
Having just been selected to the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge roster in New Orleans earlier in the day (via NBA.com), Terrence Jones continued to show the rest of the NBA that he is indeed a rising star in this league.
The team is 6-0 this season when Jones scores 20 or more points. He had already scored 10 by halftime as Houston led 63-57 at the break, so things were looking good at the time.
Now he didn't reach the 20-point mark, but he still had an excellent line of 16 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.
Perhaps the Rockets have found their power forward of the future.
Grade: A -
Patrick Beverley, Point Guard
He sure loves that corner three-pointer, eh?
Turnovers were a problem as Patrick Beverley gave up five to the Mavericks, but overall, his 11 points, four rebounds and four assists helped Houston's cause.
Aaron Brooks, Sixth Man
Is is just me or was Aaron Brooks that much faster than anyone who made an effort to guard him?
Sure, he had his problems with Devin Harris, but for the most part, nothing else really worked.
He's slowly but surely become quite the dependable sixth man for Houston. He has more value in a three-point specialist than anything else (2-of-5 against Dallas), so if he can improve his all-around game and be of assistance in other areas, that's just an added bonus.
All I'd suggest is that he never becomes a running back in the NFL. He has a tendency to fumble the ball away, if you know what I'm getting at here.
Credit goes to Donatas Motiejūnas for playing as well as he did in the second quarter, scoring six points and hitting all three shots from the floor. He afforded some of the Houston Rocket starters more time on the bench to rest up.
With the Rockets only going three-deep with their second unit, head coach Kevin McHale needed solid performances from everyone who suited up.
Motiejunas even had a stretch in the third quarter where he scored five-straight points as Dallas was looking to make a run. His defense on Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter helped out in a big way as well.
His 12 points and 13 rebounds were the first double-double of his career.
Omri Casspi was a non-factor as the only Rocket player to not score 10 or more points, finishing with just two in 12 minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki, Power Forward
The 11-time NBA All-Star for Dallas was instant offense early on in this game, hitting five of his first six shots for 11 points in the opening quarter.
By halftime, Dirk Nowitzki had made NBA history by becoming just the 13th player to ever score 26,000 points in his career.
Did he stop there? Of course not. If anything, all he did was become progressively more dangerous with his shot as the game went on.
This was the fifth time this season where Nowitzki has scored 30 or more points and the third time it's happened against the Rockets.
There must be something about a Southwest Divisional matchup that brings the absolute best out in the 16-year veteran.
He did air-ball a three-point attempt late in the game as Dallas looked to get back to within one on the scoreboard at 117-113. That's something you don't see everyday.
Grade: A +
Monta Ellis, Shooting Guard
This was a performance best left forgotten for one Monta Ellis.
The Mavericks second-leading scorer at 19.7 points wasn't much of a threat in that department as he was held in check by Houston's perimeter defense and the foul trouble he just couldn't shake off.
When you have more turnovers and personal fouls (9) than points (6), you know you've had a rough day at the office.
He did have five assists, but when you turn the ball over four times, it just cancels it out.
Jose Calderon, Point Guard
For someone who has a league-wide reputation for being one of the best pure shooters in all of basketball (46.4 percent from field, 45.2 percent from three-point range and 88 percent from free-throw line), it was rather puzzling to see Jose Calderon be as ineffective as he was against Houston.
None of the Mavericks starters who weren't named Dirk Nowitzki contributed much anyways, but that doesn't absolve Calderon.
(Almost) all was forgiven when he played stingy defense on an inbounds pass by Houston late, causing the Rockets to turn the ball over and give Dallas a chance to tie the game at 117.
He had two chances in a row to win it all from behind the arc, but both clanked off the rim.
Poor Jose. All that did was cap off a horrid 2-of-12 shooting night.
Grade: C -
Shawn Marion, Small Forward
This was the fourth game in a row where Shawn Marion hasn't reached double-digits in scoring.
To be fair, he's not expected to be much of a contributor on offense at this stage of his career. His defense and rebounding is where he needs to shine.
In 28 minutes, "The Matrix" had seven rebounds, but just six points on 3-of-10 from the field.
Samuel Dalembert, Center
Within 119 seconds, Samuel Dalembert had already picked up two fouls on Dwight Howard. Head coach Rick Carlisle had no other choice but to immediately go to his bench and try his luck with DeJuan Blair.
You'd think one of his teammates would help double team Howard in the post.
DeJuan Blair, Sixth Man
We weren't even two minutes into the game before DeJuan Blair entered for the Dallas Mavericks. Samuel Dalembert couldn't keep his hands to himself (did that sound weird?) under the basket as he struggled to contain Dwight Howard.
Like the workhorse he is, Blair affected the game in a positive way for Dallas upon entering, scoring 11 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting in the first quarter.
He may be an undersized 6'7" center, but you wouldn't know that by the way he plays. Blair played far better defense against Howard than anything Dalembert was throwing at him.
Grade: B +/A -
Thank goodness for Vince Carter.
It was his scoring off the bench that not only helped Dallas stay in this game, but it also helped take some of the pressure off of the shoulders of Dirk Nowitzki, who was the only starter to give the team much of anything.
He also hit key buckets late to (nearly) complete a comeback for the ages.
Devin Harris was a factor in his time on the court, scoring 14 points in 24 minutes. This was the third game in a row where he's scored exactly 14 points, so I guess Mavericks fans should expect more of that in the future.
Grade: A -
The Houston Rockets will have two days off before returning home to the Toyota Center on Feb. 1 as they host Kyrie Irving and the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Dallas Mavericks will continue their four-game homestand on Friday as Isaiah Thomas and the Sacramento Kings come to town.
Follow Featured Columnist/NBA Live Blogger Christopher Walder on Twitter at @WalderSports