Dallas wins series 4-3 (Game 1 of 7)

Dallas wins series 4-3

Game 1: Saturday, April 23rd
Game 2: Monday, April 25th
Game 3: Thursday, April 28th
Game 4: Saturday, April 30th
Game 5: Monday, May 2nd
Game 6: Thursday, May 5th
Game 7: Saturday, May 7th

Rockets 98

(51-31, 25-16 away)

Mavericks 86

(58-24, 29-12 home)

4:30 PM ET, April 23, 2005

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 26 26 18 2898
DAL 16 24 23 2386

Top Performers

Hou: T. McGrady 34 Pts, 5 Reb, 6 Ast, 2 Stl

Dal: J. Terry 17 Pts, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Houston bolts to a big lead it does not relinquish

DALLAS (AP) -- There was the 3-pointer several feet behind the arc, with the shot clock starting to buzz and a hand in his face. Then there was the baseline dunk that followed and, soon after, a swished 15-footer that helped protect a shrinking lead.

Yet as much as Tracy McGrady dazzled, it was the clutch baskets by his supporting cast that showed why the Houston Rockets feel so good about their playoff chances.

McGrady scored the majority of his 34 points while the Rockets were building a big early lead, then Mike James and Jon Barry made it hold up in the fourth quarter, preserving a 98-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their first-round series Saturday.

"I feel this is my time," said McGrady, who also had six assists and five rebounds. "I'm more confident than ever and I've got my team feeling the same way."

McGrady has never made it out of the first round in his career, going 0-for-4 and stung most by a blown 3-1 lead in his last postseason, two years ago in Orlando. This is his first season on the Rockets, who have been bounced in the opening round their last three playoffs. They last won a series in 1997, when the lineup featured Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley.

This season's mix of McGrady, center Yao Ming and a bunch of hardscrabble veterans already was thinking big. A solid victory -- and a team history of being 17-1 when winning Game 1 of a series -- has them even more excited. Game 2 is Monday night in Dallas.

"We believe," McGrady said. "We believed before this game."

The Rockets broke it open early, turning a tie at 14 into a 39-20 lead early in the second quarter. They were still up by double-digits until late in third, then the Mavs got within 75-71 with 9:16 left on three free throws by Jerry Stackhouse.

That's when James, the only player on either roster with a championship ring, having won with Detroit last season, made three straight shots, hitting two jumpers and a wild layup around Dirk Nowitzki. Barry followed with a 3-pointer, the Rockets were back up 84-73 and their lead wasn't challenged again.

In the locker room afterward, James slipped on his gaudy ring, which he doesn't wear often -- but is now "to let everybody know this is what it's all about."

"There are a lot of deserving guys here that don't have one," he said. "I'm just trying to be one piece of the puzzle to help us get there."

Houston acquired James at the trade deadline. Barry and David Wesley arrived in December. All are part of a rotation of players who understand their role -- like Dikembe Mutombo having eight points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes because Yao was limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble.

"Tracy's been playing at such a high level the last couple of months. We're just here to try to support him and give him the chance to do the things that we need to do to win," Mutombo said.

Counting a surge to close the regular season, Houston has won eight straight.

In losing their home-court advantage, the Mavs also ended a nine-game winning streak and a nine-game home winning streak. It was their first home loss under coach Avery Johnson and just their third in 19 games since he replaced Don Nelson.

"We haven't had many games where we were poor defensively and offensively," Johnson said. "Nobody said this was going to be a sweep for anybody. I doubt that very seriously."

As much as McGrady burned Dallas off the pick-and-roll, the Mavs also were hurt by Nowitzki having more turnovers (six) than field goals (five).

Nowitzki still scored 21, but it took him 19 shots. He was just 1-of-10 in the second half, looking nothing like the guy who outscored McGrady 53-47 in December.

"I was too tense out there," Nowitzki said. "I forced a lot of stuff. I didn't let the game come to me and I didn't help make my team better. It was bad timing to have one of my worst games of the season."

Josh Howard and Jason Terry each scored 17 for Dallas, and Stackhouse added 14. Despite making it close late, the Mavs kept themselves from matching the biggest comeback in team playoff history by making just 4 of 21 shots in the fourth quarter.

In the final minute, Johnson gave referee Joey Crawford an earful and kept chattering while walking off the court. Crawford turned away laughing, which sent Johnson hustling back at him. A Houston official pulled Johnson away.

"When I won a championship years ago, he refereed that final game," Johnson said. "I was just telling him how much I appreciated it."

Game notes

Houston's Clarence Weatherspoon went from expected starter to not playing. Ryan Bowen took his place and had four points in 31 minutes. ... Dallas scored 16 points in the first quarter. It was the lowest-scoring period for the Mavs in 10 games, since their last loss, when they had 16 and 14 the first two periods against Cleveland. ... So much for watching the NFL draft: Fox broadcaster and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman sat near center court and got a big ovation when showed on the overhead monitor.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 98 86
FGM-FGA 37-78 (.474) 24-68 (.353)
3PM-3PA 6-16 (.375) 5-13 (.385)
FTM-FTA 18-20 (.900) 33-42 (.786)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-39 19-44
Assists 15 12
Turnovers 12 13
Steals 10 4
Blocks 1 7
Fast Break Points 2 12
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (1/0) 20 (0/0)
Largest Lead 19 5

Top Performers

Tracy McGrady McGrady
Points: 34
Reb: 5
Ast: 6
Stl: 2
Blk: 0
Jason Terry Terry
Points: 17
Reb: 6
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 1