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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Harden's 32 points helps Rockets earn gutsy win over the Mavs, 95-92

Posted: November 22, 2014 -- 11:10 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- James Harden willed the Houston Rockets to a 95-92 win Saturday night over the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets' offense was ice cold for much of the fourth quarter; but, with the Rockets trailing 88-82, Harden scored seven of the Rockets' final 13 points in the final 3:14 of the game to help the Rockets (10-3) escape with a hard fought, ugly victory.

“It was important. This is a team you're gonna fight, they're (Mavericks) a very good team," Kevin McHale said after the game. "They are one of the top teams in the league. They came in on a huge roll. It's going to be a dog fight every time you play them.”

The Rockets led the Mavericks 60-51 at halftime. Harden scored 18 points in the opening half; and Patrick Beverley added 15. The Rockets sank 13 of 25 three-point shots and 9 of 17 from two point range.

The third quarter was a different story for the Rockets. The three-point shots which fell in the first half rimmed out or clanged off the rim. Houston sank only 2 of 16 three-point shots in the third quarter and made just 4 of 24 field goals overall.

The Mavericks' (10-4) offense sputtered in the third quarter, too. Dallas sank just 7 of 24 field goals (29.2%) in the third period.

The shooting woes continued in the fourth quarter for the Rockets; but, the Mavericks began heating up. Dallas outscored the Rockets 20-5 the first 8 plus minutes of the fourth quarter; but, Harden's defense on Dirk Nowitzki in the post as well as his defense on Monta Ellis on the perimeter helped spark the Rockets' offense.

Ellis sank two free throws with 58.8 seconds remaining to give the Mavericks a 92-88 lead. Harden attacked the basket and forced a foul by Ellis. Harden made both the foul shots to cut their deficit to two points.

Then, after Ellis missed a jumper, Kostas Papanikolaou rebounded the miss and dished to Harden who raced up the court and made the layup as well as drew the fifth foul on former teammate, Chandler Parsons, to tie the game at 92. Harden completed the And 1 for a 93-92 lead with just 28.2 remaining in the game.

“Pop (Kostas Papanikolaou) threw me the ball; and, I kind of fumbled it." Harden acknowledged. "And, then I turned around; and, I saw them running in transition. I looked up; and, it was just Chandler and he wasn’t square. He was still kind of running back, so I felt like I had an advantage on him and I took it.”

After the Mavericks' timeout, Harden played outstanding defense on Ellis and forced Ellis to throw the ball way rather than shoot a jump shot. Trevor Ariza gathered in the loose ball and was fouled by J.J. Barea. Ariza sank the two foul shots for a 95-92 lead.

Nowitzki missed an awkward three-point shot attempt which capped off his woeful 4 for 18 field goal shooting (0 for 11 from three).

“Back to backs obviously never helps, but I had some good looks,“ Nowitzki said. “I kept stepping in to them and I made two that were kind of big to help us get back in. We still should've won the game. I missed a lot of shots and we have to find a way against a division rival. We gave up some baskets down the stretch that were way too easy. We put James (Harden) on the line and I never really saw the bump. It was a very disappointing loss. They were on fire from the three in the first half. In the third quarter they missed a lot of shots and we climbed back in it. Being in that position and not closing it out against a good team was disappointing.”

With 1.9 seconds left, Ellis missed a game-tying three point attempt. Parsons rebounded the missed shot; but, his shot attempt was after the buzzer (and missed anyway).

Pat Beverley finished the game with 20 points; but, he left the game with a sore left hamstring. Donatas Motiejunas tallied his third career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

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