Despite a season high 31 points from the suddenly surging Chandler Parsons, the Dallas Mavericks (25-21) fell to the Houston Rockets (24-22) 115-104 Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a difficult game,” Carlisle explained. “A lot of small ball, a lot of skilled playmakers, a lot of quickness, and they stress you in a lot of ways. I thought we slugged it out for two and a half quarters, and then we were just unable to hold the line from there.”
Parsons’ third consecutive 25+ point effort, a first in his relatively young career, wasn’t enough to spark a better defensive effort by Dallas. The Mavericks were without anchor center Zaza Pachulia, who was battling a sore Achilles. In Pachulia’s place in the starting lineup was recent Twitter sensation Salah Mejri. Fresh off his monstrous blocks in Friday’s narrow loss to the Thunder, Salah could do no wrong.
“I tried to play with energy and protect the rim. That’s what Coach [Carlisle] asked me to do,” said Mejri.
Overall, the 29 year-old rookie center put up commendable numbers on the stat sheet: 10 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. However, he was a part of a Mavericks starting lineup that had no idea how to slow down the Rockets offensive attack.
The starters ceded a 12-4 deficit in the first three minutes that eventually led to a lead as large as 12 in the first quarter for a Rockets starting unit that was without Dwight Howard. Trevor Ariza scored 15 of his team high 29 in the first quarter on four three pointers that seemingly all came with Dirk Nowitzki assigned to guarding him.
Dallas would stay in front during the middle two frames thanks to their strong second quarter where they outscored the Rockets 29-14 and surged in front by 8 at halftime. It was the fourth quarter where it fell apart for Dallas.
Owning a 85-84 lead heading into the final frame, Dallas was drilled by a 28-11 Houston run that was fueled by five killer three point baskets. James Harden had an under the radar triple double, if there is such a thing, with 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
“You never can get comfortable against a team like this,” Parsons said. “They’re very talented, they can hurt you in different ways, and we allowed them to make plays, get easy shots and get open threes.”
Houston made only 15 of 44 three point attempts, slightly better than a third, but those makes came in bunches and hurt the Mavericks big time early on and late in the ballgame. Those runs early and late came with both teams running with their starting lineups. Each of Dallas’ starters owned a negative plus/minus rating. Puzzlingly, this was especially true with leading scorer Chandler Parsons; Dallas was outscored by 30 when he was on the floor.
Dallas is now just one game up on Houston for the 7th seed in the Western Conference playoff race. Up next, the Mavs face the bottom-feeding Lakers in Los Angeles Tuesday night.