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DALLAS, TX–The Dallas Mavericks held their fifth straight opponent to under 90 points en route to their fifth straight win in a critical 88-86 victory over the Houston Rockets.

In a rematch of their 2015 first-round playoff series, the Rockets stormed out to a 14-6 lead to begin the game, but the Mavs managed to be down just four points headed into the second quarter despite shooting just 29 percent from the field.

Reigning Western Conference Player of the Week J.J. Barea continued his stellar play on the offensive end, scoring 17 points in the first half to lead the Mavs. He finished with a game-high 27 points to go along with a game-high eight assists.

After a 9-0 run gave the Mavs the lead early in the second quarter, the Rockets took the lead right back until the Mavs offense finally found their rhythm in second quarter. Dallas used a 15-2 run to erase a three point deficient, highlighted by back-to-back three pointers by Wesley Matthews to help give the Mavs a 52-44 advantage going into the second half. Matthews finished the game with 16 points and 6 rebounds.

Dallas limited James Harden to just three of eight shooting from the field in the first half, but he still managed to finish with 26 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. 

“We all know how difficult it is, how important this game was,” Harden said. “It’s not rocket science.”

After a sluggish start to the second half, the Rockets continued to chip away at the Mavs lead. The Rockets zeroed in on Barea, keeping him scoreless in the third quarter following his hot start.

On an inbounds play with just 0.2 seconds left in the third quarter, Rockets point guard Jason Terry tossed an alley-hoop from the baseline that center Dwight Howard tipped in as time expired to give Houston a 71-70 lead going into the fourth quarter to cap a 15-5 run.

The Mavs struggled all night defending the Howard in the paint, who finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds. The Mavericks struggled to defend Houston’s bigs in the paint all night being outscored 48-30 in the paint.

In the fourth quarter, both clubs struggle from the floor, shooting a combined 11 of 39 (28 percent) from the field. With 6:26 left in the game, the Mavs regained the lead after a Barea 19-footer found the bottom on the net to give Dallas a two-point advantage. With the Mavs up 86-85 with 1:19 left, a layup opportunity during a fast-break by Houston forward Trevor Ariza was blocked by Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson, following a Matthews’ turnover on the other end of the floor.

Then, with 5.4 seconds left in the game the Big German, who struggled all night on the offensive end, came up with the biggest defensive play of the game. Dirk Nowitzki, stripped Harden on a drive to the basket, to give the Mavs the ball and ultimately seal the seal the victory for the Mavs.

“It was so much fun out there.” Barea said. “A team win. The defense was great. Coach did a great job of calling the game and we were able to hold them off.”

The seventh-seeded Mavs now hold a two-game advantage over the ninth-seeded Rockets with just four games remaining in the regular season. Three consecutive victories guarantees the Mavericks a place in the 2016 NBA Playoffs.

Quick Hits:

  • JJ Barea is now averaging 21.3 points,6.1 assists on 48 percent shooting in his last eight games.
  • Wesley Matthews, 177th made three-pointer is the third most in a single-season by any player in franchise history.
  • Dirk Nowitzki pass Gary Payton (1,33) for 12th all-time in games played.

Up Next: The Mavs will now have a day off before returning to the American Airlines Center on Friday night against the Marc Gasol-less Memphis Grizzlies at 7:30pm CT. 

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