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Terry, Howard the catalysts in Dallas' dominance

DALLAS (AP) -- The Dallas Mavericks were merely looking for a
good game on both ends of the court. What they got was the most
lopsided Game 7 victory in NBA playoff history.

And take note, Phoenix: They did it despite Dirk Nowitzki still
misfiring.

With Jason Terry leading the offense and Josh Howard setting the
defensive tone against Tracy McGrady, Dallas took a big lead in the
opening minutes and built on it the rest of the way for an
impressive 116-76 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday
night.

"This series stretched us, we were bending but we didn't
break," coach Avery Johnson said. "Defensively, this was the
performance I was looking for this whole series. It was right on
time."

Terry scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half, while Howard
forced McGrady to miss six of his first seven shots. Although
McGrady finished with 27 points, he shot 10-of-26 while trying to
force the Rockets back into it.

"I just tried to contain him like I have the whole series,"
Howard said. "This time, it finally worked."

Frustrated, McGrady punched the air and came close to hitting an
official. Teammate Mike James also let his emotions get the best of
him and was tossed in the final minute of the third quarter.

"We cracked in every way," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.
"It was really not befitting how we played and conducted ourselves
this year. ... The way it ended does not reflect well on myself or
the team, but it does not affect my overall pride. It does show how
very, very far we have to go."

Nowitzki, who has been sick with a cold, finished with a
series-low 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting. Howard had 21 points, 11
rebounds and three blocks, and Michael Finley scored 13. Darrell
Armstrong's 3-pointer in the closing seconds provided Dallas with
its largest postseason margin of victory ever and dealt the Rockets
the most lopsided playoff loss in franchise history.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the victory margin broke
the record of 39 for a Game 7 set when St. Louis lost 85-46 to
Philadelphia in the final game of the 1948 league semifinals.

Yao led Houston with 33 points. Other than him and McGrady, the
Rockets got just 16 points from the rest of the team. The only
bench points were from James (four) and Jon Barry (two); starter
Bob Sura didn't score in 25 minutes.

"We came out too flat," McGrady said. "We couldn't defend
anybody. They were driving right by us. Guys were knocking down
shots. I don't think we were ready for that."

Dallas led by 15 on a 3-pointer by Terry early in the second
quarter, went up 24 before halftime and stretched it to 28 at the
end of the third quarter. The only drama left was how many records
would fall.

Dallas became just the third team in playoff history to win a
seven-game series after losing the first two games at home. The
reward is a trip to play the well-rested Suns and their MVP-to-be,
Steve Nash, who spent six seasons with the Mavericks until signing
with Phoenix as a free agent last summer.

For Houston, the blown series lead was one of many things to
lament.

The Rockets acquired McGrady believing that teaming him with Yao
Ming would help them win their first playoff series since 1997.
Instead, their drought continued and McGrady fell to 0-for-5 in the
postseason. The end of their run also means Van Gundy must answer
to the NBA over his accusations about officiating that led to a
$100,000 fine.

Dallas came into this game seemingly lucky to still be playing.
In addition to going down 0-2, the Mavs trailed the Rockets in
virtually every meaningful statistical category.

Their first defensive stand featured a block, a near-steal and
Howard forcing McGrady to miss a long, ugly shot with the 24-second
clock about to expire.

The Mavericks kept it up on defense, forcing the Rockets to miss
11 of their first 13 shots. They also were opportunistic on
offense, driving the lane with abandon and drilling their outside
shots as if it was pregame warmups. Terry, the most accurate
3-point shooter in the NBA this postseason, made his first three
from behind the arc and Finley started 3-of-4.

When Terry hit a shorter jumper to make it 41-22, Van Gundy
called his third crowd-quieting timeout of the game -- and there was
still 8:58 left in the second quarter. Soon after, a steal by
Armstrong led to a layup by Stackhouse. In the tunnel between the
benches, Don Nelson -- Dallas' coach until early March -- stood with
a priceless grin.

McGrady's frustration boiled over midway through the second
quarter. After missing three layups on one possession, he got so
angry he wound up with a technical foul. But because Dallas was on
a fast break, the whistle was held until after the next shot --
another 3 by Terry. He then made the foul shot and the Mavs were up
49-25.

In the third quarter when Yao fouled Howard on a baseline drive
and knocked him to the floor, Yao went to help Howard up but
McGrady pulled his jersey to prevent him from doing so.

James' fit was even more intense. So upset that Armstrong wasn't
called for a foul while blocking a layup, James ran back and fouled
the first person he saw. He began ripping the referee and was hit
with one technical, then another. He even shoved away the team's
trainer when he tried escorting him off the court.

Game notes
Houston never led. The only tie was 4-4. ... Two formally
dressed teenagers seated near the baseline held up signs that read,
"We Skipped Sr. Prom ... to see our Mavs WIN!" ... The Rockets
dropped to 5-2 in Game 7s and 2-2 when they're on the road. ... The
1969 Lakers and '94 Rockets were the other teams to win a
seven-game series after losing the first two at home.