HOUSTON (AP) -Aaron Brooks felt in a groove, and that was all the Houston Rockets needed to pull out another close victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Brooks scored 30 points, Shane Battier made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:11 left, and Rockets beat the Mavericks 97-94 on Thursday night.
``I wanted to extend the defense a little bit and open up Carl (Landry) on the inside a little bit,' Brooks said. ``I feel we did a great job doing that. I'm going to go out there and play hard and shoot when I'm open and whatever happens after that, I'm going to roll with it.'
Brooks followed Battier's 3 with one of his own for a six-point lead with 1:35 remaining, and the Rockets held on when Jason Kidd missed a potential tying shot from behind the arc in the final second.
``I got a great look,' Kidd said. ``I might have rushed it a second. I would love to have that shot again. Give Houston credit. They won the game. The zone helped us in the second half to get back in the game. We had an opportunity.'
The Rockets led through most of the first half and went up 66-52 in the third quarter, aided by six quick points by Brooks. But the Mavericks scrambled back into the game and tied it at 89 with 4:52 to play.
Jason Terry led a strong bench performance by Dallas with 20 points. Josh Howard had 16 points and Drew Gooden added 10 points off the bench.
Shawn Marion had 16 points and Kidd scored 14 for the Mavs, but Dirk Nowitzki sat out much of the first half with three fouls, and finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Landry added 15 points for the Rockets.
``We've struggled with Dallas early in the season,' Houston forward Luis Scola said. ``We finally could win the last two games so we finished the year on a great note and we're happy with it.'
Houston led 56-47 at the half and Brooks took charge with 13 points in the third quarter to keep the Rockets rolling to a 78-70 lead after three quarters.
The Rockets beat the Mavericks 116-108 in overtime in their last meeting on Dec. 18. There were seven technical fouls called in the game and the Mavericks protested to the NBA that the final 61 seconds should be replayed, believing a ``misapplication of the rules' led to the ejection of Dallas center Erick Dampier in the extra period.
This time, there were two technicals.
``We're rivals and have been since I've been in Dallas,' Terry said. ``It's been tough all season and it's an early end to our matchup during the regular season. Good luck to them and maybe we'll see them in the playoffs. They always play hard.'
The Rockets led by 10 points late in the first quarter, but the Mavericks fought back and took their only lead of the second period, 38-37 on a 16-foot jumper by Terry. Kyle Lowry followed quickly with a 3-point basket and the Rockets held on to their lead at the half.
Howard had 11 second-quarter points to keep Dallas close.
The Mavericks started cold and the Rockets broke from a 7-all tie to a 24-17 lead. Scola broke the tie with two straight baskets and the Rockets took advantage of early foul trouble by Nowitzki, who drew his second foul at 6:31 and sat out the rest of the first period. He got his third late in the second quarter.
``Our undoing was a sluggish first quarter,' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ``Houston hit us with early transition points and 3s. The rest of the game was about even. With a team like this you have to come out with energy early or you are in trouble.'
NOTES: Rockets rookie guard Chase Budinger is still recovering from a sprained ankle Dec. 19 and sat out Thursday's game and likely will miss Saturday's at New Orleans. Nowitzki has 10 double-doubles this season. Terry is the Mavericks' No. 7 career scorer with 6,152 points.
The Associated Press News Service
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