Dysfunctional Rockets Cook Dirk's Mavs

There is a dysfunctional nature to the Rockets that is evident even when they warm up. But on Friday, 'warm' went to 'hot' as Houston edged the Mavs 100-96. Let DB.com take you inside the AAC ...

Everything about these Houston Rockets is dysfunctional. That goes for team members like Jason Terry talking openly of his plan to defect his way back to Dallas. It goes for the recent firing of freshly-contracted coach Kevin McHale. It goes for the uniforms they brought to Dallas on Friday, some sort of weird homage to RaceTrac gas stations. Heck, it even goes for the Rockets' pregame huddle celebration, which was on display here at the American Airlines Center and featured the quasi-injured Dwight Howard trotting through a team high-five line without receiving any high-fives while James Harden retreated to be all by his lonesome as his team was introduced.

“It’s great'' that Houston won 100-96, said Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the replacement for the dethroned Kevin McHale. "It speaks volumes to the guys in that locker room. We continue to find a way. We’re starting to get our identity right now, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Mavs Nation grimmaces here.

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The Rockets' "identity''? It's as screwy as their 9-11 record, a failure for a franchise boasting two of the grandest talents in the game. But Howard is a bit of a phantom, as he can't be counted on. And Harden is ... well, a lackadaisical defender and a beggar of fouls and a keep-it-real goofball who ... made the game-sealing shot to drop Dallas to 11-9 and even his Rockets at 1-1 against their divisional foe from Big D.
“The defense was great,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of go-to stopper Wes Matthews' work on Harden. "The shot was spectacular and a little lucky to get the bounce. Wes played it great, and it was just a little better shot. That’s all.”

But actually, that's not at all, all.

The home loss is important in the Southwest Division. It included another late takeover attempt by Deron Williams (nearly successful), a rubberized return from Dirk Nowitzki (breathe, people, breathe!) and a philosophical shift for Chandler Parsons, who wasn't on the floor to start but was there to finish.

“It was his idea and he came to me with it,'' Carlisle said of Parsons as the Dallas sixth man. "At this point I like it a lot because it opens up a lot of flexibility. It enables him to be involved in the fourth quarter. It is an adjustment to him, but until the minutes restriction are completely lifted, if we don’t do something like this, he’s going to keep getting shut down in the third quarter. He’s progressed enough in his conditioning and rhythm to where we need to have that option. Let’s face it, most guys in his position would not come to the coach and make this kind of suggestion, but he’s a winner and he’s about the team. He wants to play when it counts and he wants to be available when it counts. For right now, I think it’s a very sound concept.”

Said Parsons, who played 26 minutes with nine rebounds, four rebounds and four assists: "“It was just something that we had talked about and something we thought would be beneficial to the entire team. While I’m going through this minute restriction, it’s just a different look to space out my minutes. And it’s been tough on everybody, trying to get in a flow and get in a rhythm.”

It -- and Rick's SmallBall starting lineup of Williams, Raymond Felton, Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and center Zaza Pachuli -- might've worked has Dallas "played with the same grit in the first half'' (Rick's words) as it did in the second.

Dallas was down 15-8 to start and even with an ensuing 14-0 run got to the intermission in a 57-53 hole. The Mavs did tie the game 78-all to get to the fourth, with the efforts of Devin Harris (6-of-7 for 15 points) keeping them alive ...

... the emotional rut felt bottomless when with 11:17 left in the game the great Nowitzki got tangled up inside and seemed to injury his hip. You see your season flash before your eyes as you see The UberMan retreat to the locker room ... but maybe the best-conditioned 37-year-old athlete on the planet was able to return with 6:34 to play and expressed his plans to play on.

"I'll probably be a little stiff (Saturday) and get some treatment on it," said Dirk (16 points and 10 rebounds), vowing to be ready for Sunday in Washington -- oh, and DB.com will be at that game with full coverage.

Deron continues to be Dirk's best offensive helper. Following his season-high 30-point outing in Portland, Williams finished with 22 points here on 8-of-16 from the field with six assists -- though eight turnovers mar this boxscore.

“It’s frustrating,” Deron said. “We’ve got to be a little bit more consistent. You know, this was an important game for us against a division foe. Coming off the big win in Portland and coming back home, we wanted to come and get a win.”

Harden, of course, presents a great challenge to that. His knack for persuading the zebras to favor him is a keen skill, and one of the reasons he's the NBA's second-leading scorer totalling 25 points here. He and the Rockets are defend-able ...

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... But a Dallas team we all expected to be shot-makers is something short of that. And if you want to point a finger, Wes is inviting it.

"I suck right now,'' said Wes, who was 1-of-9 from the floor with a please-quit-shooting 1-of-8 from the arc. "Point-blank.''

                    

Nothing sucks about the Mavs, in terms of their bonded approach, compared to what might be eating at Houston's core. Shortly after the Rockets engaged in their private pregame rituals, members of the Mavs bench celebrated little successes by doing a sort of sit-down "wave.'' It was as cool and corny as the green throwbacks worn on Friday, an old-fashioned sign of something good ... that you wish would've been rewarded with an errant Harden bounce and a needed Dallas win.


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