Mavericks stop Rockets' win streak

DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks are starting to figure out
how to use all their different pieces.

Antoine Walker scored seven of his 17 points in the game-turning
run, Shawn Bradley kept Yao Ming frustrated and Dallas' "Big 3"
all contributed -- two of them without feeling their best -- in the
Mavericks' 97-86 win over Houston on Thursday night.

"We're starting to get a good feel for each other," said
Walker, one of the Dallas newcomers. "Defensively, we're starting
to come together no matter what defense we play. And if we continue
to move the ball and find open guys, the sky's the limit for us."

Walker had 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and the
Mavericks won their third straight game since being held to 71
points in a loss at Toronto last week.

The Mavericks have since beaten defending champion San Antonio
and had their best overall game of the season, 125-97 over New

"We're coming closer to finding our identity," guard Steve
Nash said.

Jim Jackson had 23 points for the Rockets, who had their
four-game winning streak snapped. They've lost five straight to
Dallas after being swept in a season series by their instate rival
for the first time in 2002-03.

Walker's free throw started a 22-8 run with 7:54 left in the
third quarter. That made it 58-55, and by time he hit a long jumper
4{ minutes later, the lead was 73-63.

Nash added six points in the spurt, playing through a bruised
left knee and ending it with two free throws at the 1:53 mark for a
79-63 lead.

Playing with a touch of the flu, Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with
23 points, while Nash had 16 and Michael Finley 14. Antawn Jamison,
another Dallas newcomer, had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Steve Francis had 15 points for Houston, while Kelvin Cato and
Yao -- who spent about half of his time on the court guarded by
7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley -- each had 12.

I felt like I was surrounded all night," said the 7-6 Yao, who
still managed eight rebounds.

Houston had erased a 50-44 halftime deficit with a quick 7-1
spurt out of the break.

Francis was driving into the lane when he saw Jackson wide open
on the left wing for a 3-pointer. After Walker's miss, Jackson
grabbed an offense rebound and slipped around Nowitzki to tie the
game at 51 less than two minutes into the half.

But the Rockets never went ahead and the only other tie came
after the teams traded baskets. Yao's follow-up layup made it
53-all before the Mavericks went ahead to stay when Walker passed
to Finley for a 13-foot jumper.

Dallas' deciding run started after Walker was fouled by Cuttino
Mobley. The Rockets had nine fouls in that span, the last leading
to Nash's run-ending free throws.

"Emotionally, we allowed frustration to not allow us to play as
well as we are capable of playing in the second half," Houston
coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We spent too much time preoccupied
with officials' calls or non-calls."

Dallas hit 11 of 14 free throws in the third quarter, and
finished 23 of 28 overall.

Game notes
Dallas was 2-of-19 from 3-point range. ... Mobley, coming
off a 30-point game and three straight games with at least 20, was
the only Houston starter not in double figures with nine points on
2-of-10 shooting. ... Mavericks G Tony Delk missed his second
straight game with a strained left hamstring. ... Dallas has won
nine of the last 11 games in the series, but Houston still has a
69-48 overall lead. ... The crowd of 19,663 gave the Mavericks
their 75th straight sellout.