Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 4)

Series starts 12/2

Game 1: Thursday, December 2nd
Game 2: Saturday, December 11th
Game 3: Wednesday, January 12th
Game 4: Sunday, March 6th

Mavericks 102

(14-8, 7-3 away)

Rockets 78

(9-12, 5-6 home)

    Coverage: FSSW

    7:30 PM ET, December 11, 2004

    Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    DAL 28 22 28 24102
    HOU 15 26 17 2078

    Top Performers

    Dal: D. Nowitzki 22 Pts, 14 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Blk

    Hou: T. McGrady 15 Pts, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

    Houston suffers largest loss of season

    HOUSTON (AP) -- This time, the Houston Rockets couldn't handle Michael Finley.

    Finley scored a season-high 26 points and led a huge third-quarter charge as the Dallas Mavericks beat Houston 102-78, handing the Rockets their biggest loss of the season Saturday night.

    Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki scored 53 points in the last meeting between the two teams in a 113-106 overtime victory on Dec. 2. Finley took over Saturday, hitting four straight 3-pointers in a 23-8 run in the third quarter against the Rockets.

    "We shot the ball well and Mike Finley came back and established our outside game," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "He stayed right in there and he might have gotten tired but I don't take a hot man out. It's great to have him back. He establishes the outside game and opened up the drives. He opened everything up."

    Houston's biggest previous loss was 21 points against Detroit on Nov. 30.

    Finley, recovering from a sprained right ankle, made five of his eight 3-point attempts. The Mavericks hit 11 of 25 3-pointers while the Rockets went 6-for-18.

    "I was trying to concentrate on defense," Finley said. "Tracy was my first priority. I didn't want him to have another `SportsCenter' highlight game. I tried to limit his touches."

    The Rockets tried to recover from a slow first half and win their fourth straight game but the Mavericks wouldn't let them.

    "Our transition defense obviously was deplorable," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Whatever the opponent is, there's no excuse to get beat in transition. That's not to take anything away from Dallas. They were phenomenal. They were great and we were uninspired."

    Dallas led by as many as 17 points late in the second quarter but the Rockets cut it to seven, 54-47, early in the third period. That's when Finley started his 3-point spree that gave the Mavericks 77-55 lead with 1:24 left in the third quarter.

    Nowitzki carried the scoring brunt for Dallas in the first half and finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Tracy McGrady led Houston with 15 points, and Yao Ming had 13.

    "He's (Finley) playing unbelievable, particularly since he's been off a month and a half," Nowitzki said. "He was demanding the ball. He was very aggressive. He's a great shooter. He showed it tonight. They have to respect his outside shot. He showed what kind of shooter he was when he got hot in the second half."

    Nowitzki took advantage of a slow start by the Rockets and put the Mavericks in charge early. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the first half and the Mavericks led 50-41. The Rockets trailed by 17 points with 1:46 left in the second quarter, but used a 10-2 run to cut into the deficit.

    "One thing about this league, there are some nights it's just not there no matter what you do or how hard you try," McGrady said. "But you still should give your best effort. Our fans deserve that. However, tonight we didn't do that."

    The Rockets weren't prepared for both Nowitzki and Finley.

    "It's tough enough to guard Nowitzki," Yao said. "To add another player is even tougher. Our biggest problem was not running back. We have to get back on transition. Dallas is an offensive team. They like to run. Today, we let them play the way they like to play."

    Game notes

    The combined 101 points by Nowitzki (53) and McGrady (48) on Dec. 2 was the most ever scored by two players a Rockets game. ... Yao is the only Houston player who has started all 21 games this season. ... Dallas has won 13 of the last 16 games against the Rockets and nine of the last 10.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 102 78
    FGM-FGA 38-82 (.463) 24-71 (.338)
    3PM-3PA 11-25 (.440) 6-18 (.333)
    FTM-FTA 15-23 (.652) 24-31 (.774)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-46 11-43
    Assists 29 15
    Turnovers 8 14
    Steals 6 3
    Blocks 6 5
    Fast Break Points 18 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (1/1) 20 (1/0)
    Largest Lead 30 0

    Top Performers

    Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
    Points: 22
    Reb: 14
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 3
    Tracy McGrady McGrady
    Points: 15
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 1