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01/17/2013 12:38 AM EST
Brand helps Mavericks hold off Rockets 105-100
DALLAS 105, HOUSTON 100

By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Sports Writer

DALLAS (AP) -- James Harden drove to the basket with his potent
left hand, intent on breaking a late tie against the Dallas
Mavericks.



His layup attempt never reached the rim.



Elton Brand's critical block led to a pair of tiebreaking free
throws by O.J. Mayo, and Dirk Nowitzki hit several big shots and
finished with 19 points to turn back a Jeremy Lin-led rally in
the Mavericks' 105-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on
Wednesday night.



"I had two or three. Which one was it?" Brand said when asked
about the block, managing to keep a straight face for a few
seconds before breaking into a big grin.



He knew which one it was.



"He's one of the best finishers in the league," Brand said. "I
just tried to do what I could to get a stop right there."



The Mavericks, who won a season-high fourth straight game, got
plenty of stops on Harden. The NBA's fourth-leading scorer
finished with 20 points but had just five midway through the
third quarter and was held to 5-of-23 shooting. He barely
extended his career-best streak of games with at least 20 points
to 22.



Lin was the bigger threat in the fourth quarter. With Houston
trailing 93-82, he hit two free throws and consecutive driving
layups to start a 15-4 surge that tied the score at 97. He also
had a 3-pointer, but missed three of six free throws down the
stretch. One would have given Houston its first lead since the
first quarter, and the last cost the Rockets a chance to tie
with 57 seconds left.



"Well, if I could hit a free throw that would be nice," said
Lin, a 78 percent foul shooter who had 19 points but went 6 of
10 from the line.



Mayo's free throws put Dallas ahead 99-97 with 1:02 remaining,
and Lin had a chance to tie it after drawing a foul call that
Dallas didn't like. His miss gave the Mavericks the ball back
with the lead, but Mike James missed a long jumper. Harden
couldn't get a good look at a layup on the other end, and
Nowitzki won a scramble for the ball and made two more free
throws.



The Rockets had a last chance to tie, but Lin committed their
16th turnover trying to get the ball to Chandler Parsons, who
had 18 points. Harden, Lin and Parsons - Houston's three outside
scoring threats - combined to make 17 of 50 from the field as
the Rockets shot 39 percent and lost a season-high fifth
straight coming off their second five-game winning streak, also
a season best.



"Turnovers, missed layups, missed good shots," Rockets coach
Kevin McHale said. "We just go through stretches where that
comes back, and we've got to fight back after that."



Mayo had 18 points despite 3-of-14 shooting because he was 12 of
13 from the line. Shawn Marion also had 18 points to go with
nine rebounds, while Brand had 11 points, 10 rebounds and two
blocks.



Six Mavericks finished in double figures for the second straight
game, but Dallas was looking to Nowitzki in key stretches. He
hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to stem a Houston
rally and had another big jumper after Lin pulled the Rockets
within a point with 3:40 left.



"I had some good looks," said Nowitzki, who has scored in double
figures in nine straight games after a slow start in his return
from knee surgery that sidelined him for the first two months.
"That 3 at the end of the third helped me get my rhythm.
Sometimes all you need is to see the ball go through the hoop
one time."



The Mavericks shot 38 percent and had a subpar night at the line
before Nowitzki, Mayo and Dahntay Jones combined to make eight
straight in the final 1:02.



Harden had gone more than two quarters without a basket when he
stole a pass and converted a three-point play on the other end
midway through the third. He ended up with five points during a
10-2 run that pulled Houston to 71-69.



NOTES: The Mavericks didn't trail in Monday's 113-98 win over
Minnesota, the first time this season Dallas led from start to
finish. It also was the first time the Mavericks had three
players with 20 or more points in a game. Darren Collison scored
23 and Mayo and Brand added 20 apiece. ... Collison and Mayo had
nine assists each against the Timberwolves, making it the first
time since 2002 that two Dallas players had at least 20 points
and nine assists in the same game. ... Houston's 18 points in
the first quarter matched a season low for a Dallas opponent in
the first. ... James' 10-day contract expires at midnight
Thursday. He played critical minutes against the Rockets,
increasing the likelihood that he'll stay around.

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