Once the higher-seeded team has won the first two games of their first-round series at home in these playoffs, Game 3 on the road has been a flat-out war, almost universally. We saw the Cavaliers, Bulls and Warriors all struggle mightily in this situation just one night earlier, and things were no different between the Rockets and the Mavericks on Friday — but neither was the end result.
Behind 42 points from James Harden and 26 rebounds from Dwight Howard, Houston hung on for a 130-128 win in Dallas to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. This was an interesting contest, one in which defense seemed largely to be optional. The Rockets scored 42 first-quarter points, but ended up trailing by seven at the break thanks to a 72-point half put up by the Mavericks. Houston led by 10 with under four minutes to play, but Dallas made a late run to give themselves a chance.
Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 24 of his 34 points in the second half, drew a foul on a three-point attempt with 33 seconds remaining, and made the three free throws to cut the lead to one. But Harden was able to score on the ensuing possession, getting free for a step-back jumper which pushed the lead back to three with 12 seconds left. Monta Ellis made a driving layup to get Dallas back within one, but after a Corey Brewer made free throw, Ellis missed a 20-footer that could have tied it just before time expired.
No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win and advance, and this Dallas club will be hard-pressed to be the first. The Mavericks gave their all in this one, just like the Bucks, Pelicans and Celtics did the night before. But the result for all of them will ultimately be the same — playoff elimination, in no more than five games.
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