Rockets get jump on Mavericks

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005


  Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, left, of Germany is pushed by Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady (1) during the second half in Dallas, Saturday, April 23, 2005. The Rockets won 98-86. AP Photo/LM Otero

Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, left, of Germany is pushed by Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady (1) during the second half in Dallas, Saturday, April 23, 2005. The Rockets won 98-86.

AP Photo/LM Otero

DALLAS — The jaw-dropping baskets by Tracy McGrady were expected. The clutch baskets by Mike James and Jon Barry? Well, that's why McGrady feels so good about his chances of finally winning a playoff series.

McGrady scored the majority of his 34 points during the first three quarters while the Houston Rockets were building a big lead, then James and Barry helped protect the shrinking margin in the final period, preserving a 98-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their first-round series Saturday.

McGrady's early heroics, highlighted by a long 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire and Dirk Nowitzki's hand in his face, helped Houston take a 19-point lead early in the second quarter. The Rockets were up by double-digits until the closing minutes of the third, then Dallas got within 75-71 with 9:16 left.

James, the only player on either roster with a championship ring, having won with Detroit last season, scored Houston's next three baskets with two jumpers and a wild layup around Nowitzki. Barry followed with a 3-pointer and the Rockets were back up 84-73 and just 5:52 to play.

Counting a surge to close the regular season, Houston has now won eight straight. This was the most significant because it takes away Dallas' home-court advantage — and it fits nicely with a quirky stat in team history. The Rockets are 17-1 when winning Game 1 of a series and just 5-19 when losing the opener.

Game 2 is Monday night in Dallas, and the Mavericks have some regrouping to do before then. The loss ended a nine-game winning streak and a nine-game home winning streak. It was their first home loss under coach Avery Johnson and just their third in 19 games since he replaced Don Nelson.

Maybe that explains why Johnson lost his cool at game's end. After giving referee Joey Crawford an earful over the last minute, he kept talking while walking off the court after the final buzzer. Crawford turned away laughing, which sent Johnson hustling back at him. A Houston official pulled Johnson away.

The biggest problem for Dallas was a lousy game from Nowitzki, whose career playoff averages for points and rebounds are higher than his regular-season totals.

Although he scored 21 points, he was 5-of-19 with six turnovers and 10 rebounds. Looking nothing like the guy who outscored McGrady 53-47 in their first meeting this season, Nowitzki made just one shot after halftime.

Josh Howard and Jason Terry each scored 17 for Dallas and Jerry Stackhouse had 14 in a reserve role, including the three free throws that got the Mavericks within four early in the fourth.

Pistons 106, 76ers 85

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Rasheed Wallace scored 24 of his 29 points in the second half, helping the defending NBA champion Pistons pull away from the 76ers.

Allen Iverson had 30 points and 10 assists, and Chris Webber scored 27 points, but that wasn't nearly enough for the seventh-seeded Sixers.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night.

Antonio McDyess scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter for Detroit, Tayshaun Prince finished with 23 points, and Richard Hamilton had 17. Ben Wallace tied a Pistons playoff record with seven blocks and had seven points and 10 rebounds.

Celtics 102, Pacers 82

BOSTON — Raef LaFrentz set a club playoff record by hitting all five of his 3-pointers and the scrappy Celtics rolled over the slower Pacers in their playoff opener.

The Celtics overcame a horrible start in which they missed 12 of their first 13 shots and trailed 12-6. But they hit 20 of their 31 shots the rest of the half and led 57-31 at intermission.

LaFrentz led the Celtics with 21 points and broke the record for 3-pointers set by Scott Wedman in Game 1 of the 1985 NBA finals, won by the Los Angeles Lakers. Gary Payton had 14 points and Antoine Walker and Ricky Davis added 13 each.

The Pacers were led by Stephen Jackson's 25 points. Austin Croshere added 10 points, while Reggie Miller, who plans to retire after this season, and Jermaine O'Neal had only seven.

Boston will host Game 2 on Monday night.

SuperSonics 87, Kings 82

SEATTLE — Ray Allen scored 28 points and Seattle center Jerome James added 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, leading the SuperSonics past Sacramento in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The Sonics blew a 21-point second-half lead but held on with big baskets in the closing seconds by Allen and James.

Peja Stojakovic led Sacramento with 24 points, and Cuttino Mobley scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half for the Kings.

Rashard Lewis added 18 points for Seattle.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Seattle.

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