HOUSTON (AP) — Dwight Howard scored 28 points and James Harden added 24 to help the Houston Rockets coast to a 111-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference playoff series.
Howard and childhood friend Josh Smith dominated early in the fourth quarter to help the Rockets pull away.
The Mavericks scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a three-point lead. But with Harden on the bench, Houston scored the next 11 points, powered by three alley-oop passes from Smith to Howard, to take a 92-84 lead with about 8 minutes left.
Smith, who connected with Howard on six alley-oop passes, finished with 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Monta Ellis had 24 points for Dallas, but big men Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler combined for just 21 points.
Game 3 is in Dallas on Friday night.
A fourth alley-oop connection came soon after the big run and Smith dished it to Corey Brewer for two straight dunks seconds later to make it 98-88.
Smith had another highlight with about 2 minutes left when he grabbed a bounce pass from Harden and sailed over Chandler for a one-handed dunk that made it 109-96.
Howard, who missed more than two months late this season with swelling in his right knee, played just 17 minutes in Game 1 because of foul trouble. On Tuesday night he played more than 33 minutes, showing that he’s back to form after an injury-plagued regular season. He had 12 rebounds and two blocks.
The Mavericks played without Chandler Parsons, who missed the game with a right knee injury. Parsons, who averaged 15.7 points in the regular season, played in Game 1 after sitting out the last six before the postseason with the same problem.
Coach Rick Carlisle said they are “very concerned” about Parsons and that he will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Rajon Rondo of Dallas got into foul trouble early, and didn’t play after picking up his fourth with more than 11 minutes left in the third quarter. He finished with just four points.
Dallas used a 7-2 run to get within one, but a 3-pointer by Smith extended Houston’s lead to 65-61 with 8 minutes left in the third. That shot was the first of a 7-2 spurt by Houston, during which Smith scored all of the Rockets points.
Smith was at it again soon after that when he was fouled making a layup and flexed his muscles after the play as the crowd went wild.
Ellis made a layup for Dallas before Smith found Howard with an alley-oop pass that pushed the lead to 75-68 with about 4 minutes left in the third.
The Mavericks had scored five straight points late in the third when Smith saved the ball from going out of bounds by tipping it to Brewer. Smith crashed into the seats on the baseline as Brewer swished the corner 3. But Ellis made a long 3 just before the buzzer to cut Houston’s lead to 81-80 entering the fourth.
The teams stayed close for most of second quarter and Harden scored his first points since midway through the first quarter with two free throws to tie it at 42-all about 3 1/2 minutes before halftime. Houston led 53-51 at halftime.
Mavericks: G Devin Harris missed Tuesday’s game because of an injury to the big toe on his left foot. … Rondo received a technical for arguing a foul early in the second quarter.
Rockets: Houston Texans star J.J. Watt watched the game from a courtside seat. He said Monday that the Rockets success is: “great for the city of Houston, so I’m really hoping that they can do big things.”… Howard got a flagrant 1 foul on Nowitzki in the fourth quarter.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.