DALLAS (AP) - While leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki struggles to regain his form, the Dallas Mavericks need offense from other sources. Tyson Chandler and reserve J.J. Barea came through on Thursday night.
Chandler matched his season high with 21 points and had 15 rebounds, Barea added 19 points, and the Mavericks hung on after wasting most of a 25-point first-half lead in a 111-106 victory over the Houston Rockets.
``Barea has been a difference-maker for us and Tyson's getting more involved offensively, which is good,' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
Nowitzki had 18 points, 5.3 points under his season average, and Jason Terry added 15 for the Mavericks, who have won four of five following a six-game losing streak.
``Dirk was Superman for the first third of the season,' Carlisle said. ``Right now, we're going to have to be there for him.'
Nowitzki missed nine games with a sprained right knee from Dec. 28-Jan. 14. He returned on Jan. 15, and has led his team in scoring in three of his seven games back. But his shooting has been inconsistent, and Nowitzki admitted his legs sometimes feel heavy.
``Not very well, but it's getting better,' Nowitzki said of his conditioning. ``Moving better again, especially in the first half, but in the second half I got a little fatigued. But I've got to keep on fighting, and eventually I'll get there.'
Barea has become a recent offensive force, going 17 of 22 from the field and averaging 22 points in the last two games mostly on slashing drives and long-range jumpers.
``Everybody has to step up,' Barea said. ``There's no question he's not even close to being Dirk Nowitzki. We've got to keep getting wins and giving him some time.'
Luis Scola led Houston with 30 points, and Kevin Martin had 27.
Houston pulled to 104-103 with 51.8 seconds left when Scola completed a 12-2 run with a tip-in.
But Barea hit a 13-footer with 32.9 seconds to go, and Nowitzki converted one of two free throws with 23.1 seconds left to make it 107-103.
Aaron Brooks missed a layup with 17.8 seconds remaining, and Terry made two free throws with 14.3 seconds left for a 109-103 lead, icing the victory.
Houston put together a 26-6 surge to narrow the huge first-half deficit to 77-75 with 4:06 left in the third quarter. Scola had 10 points and Shane Battier hit two 3-pointers during the spurt.
The Mavs recovered with a 10-3 run over the final 3 minutes of the quarter, capped by Barea's twisting layup with 3.9 seconds left, for an 88-81 lead.
Dallas used a 17-2 run to roll to a 28-10 lead. The Rockets were a step slow early after beating the Clippers on Wednesday night. The Mavericks had been off since beating the Clippers on Tuesday night.
The Mavs carried a 33-15 lead into the second quarter, taking advantage of Houston's 6-of-21 shooting (28.6 percent) in the opening quarter.
The Mavericks led 47-22 and were still in front at halftime, 64-47. Chandler had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Nowitzki added 13 points in the half.
``That was our worst half of the season,' Battier said. ``We couldn't have played any worse.'
Dallas had its largest halftime lead and best scoring half of the season.
``You can't get yourself in a 25-point hole and expect to win,' Martin said.
NOTES: The Mavericks pulled out a 101-91 victory over the Rockets on Nov. 29, the only other meeting between the teams this season. But Dallas had No. 3 scorer Caron Butler in that game. Butler is out for the season with a torn tendon in his right knee. ... Recently signed F Peja Stojakovic isn't quite ready to join the Mavericks' rotation. Stojakovic has been practicing with his new teammates and has been shooting after practice with Nowitzki, but Carlisle said before the game that Stojakovic still needs time to round into basketball shape. Stojakovic hasn't played since November for the Toronto Raptors. ... Houston's 15-point first quarter matched its lowest of the season for the opening 12 minutes. ... Dallas didn't have a starter voted to the Western Conference All-Stars, although Nowitzki will most likely get a berth as a reserve. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday that Chandler also deserves to be on a team that projects to lack true centers. ... Dallas is 16-5 in its last 21 games with Houston.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved