- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- For a guy whose team rolled to a 121-103 win, Rick Carlisle wasn't in a real good mood late Tuesday night.
Shoulda seen him at halftime.
After the Houston Rockets roared to 61 points in the first half, Carlisle unleashed a tirade that Dirk Nowitzki compared to some of Avery Johnson's antics in the home locker room at the American Airlines Center.
Carlisle booted a blue laundry bin -- "Almost broke his toe," Dirk said -- then tried to pick it up and toss it. The usually mild-mannered coach's dress shoe also made contact with the white grease board, on which he had scrawled "11," symbolizing how many consecutive possessions the Rockets scored against the Dallas Mavericks' despicable defense.
During Carlisle's postgame press conference, he used words such as poor, embarrassing, horrendous, terrible and abysmal to describe the Mavericks' performance for most of the first half. The words he used while battering the laundry bin are probably best left in the locker room.
"He moved some of the furniture around," point guard Jason Kidd said. "And it was well-deserved. We all took notice of that."
Just imagine how mad Carlisle would have been if the Mavericks didn't finish the first half with a 10-0 run to get back in the game.
"There would have been more than furniture moved," Kidd said.
The Mavericks responded to Carlisle's rant by completely dominating the second half. The Mavericks outscored the Rockets by a 64-42 margin after halftime, holding Houston to 30.6-percent shooting.
Kidd accepted the challenge of defending Houston point guard Aaron Brooks, who exploded for 19 points in the first half and finished with 22. Erick Dampier (14 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks) was a dominant force in the paint, grabbing 14 boards after the break. Jason Terry shot down any chance of a Houston comeback, scoring 14 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.
It's the second time in eight days the Mavs have proven that they're capable of digging out of huge holes. They trailed by as many as 17 against the Rockets, one week after Dirk's 29-point fourth quarter erased a 16-point deficit in a win over the Utah Jazz.
That's a trend Carlisle wants to see end. He'd much prefer the Mavs to display a consistent level of aggressiveness and commitment to defense.
"You can't flip a switch," Carlisle said. "Teams are too good. The game is too challenging. You're men, not machines. The habits you have are ingrained. We've got to work on our habits."
The Mavericks didn't make any significant strategic changes after the Rockets dominated the first 20 minutes. They simply started to play harder after initially being overwhelmed by Houston's energy, as small forward Shawn Marion put it.
The mystery is why it seems like the Mavs frequently need to get their lips bloodied before they play to their potential. As Nowitzki noted, there's no excuse for the Mavs not to come out with more energy, especially at home.
"I know it sounds stupid, but we've just got to do a better job defensively from the start of the games and just be ready for that first punch," said Nowitzki, who scored 23 points. "I guess it's easier said than done. We've got so many veterans and we know that no hole is too deep, but at some point, that's going to come around and hurt you in a couple of games."
It'd at least have the head coach's toes aching.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.