How it happened: In a game that had a playoff feel, the Mavs flashed the finishing form that carried them to a championship last year.
Dallas dominated the fourth quarter, something that has been a rarity this season. The Mavs, who didn’t exactly put on a defensive clinic for the first three quarters, went on a 19-8 run in the first six minutes of the final frame to seize the lead for good.
The Rockets, whose playoff hopes took a huge hit, were done in by three of the league’s most prolific fourth-quarter scorers over the last decade and change. Among active players, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Vince Carter are in a class with Kobe Bryant in terms of points scored in the fourth quarter.
Nowitzki and Terry have been the Mavs’ co-closers for years. They went to work again with the Mavs’ season on the line. Nowitzki scored 21 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth. Terry had six of his 19 points, plus a pair of assists.
Carter, a newcomer to the Mavs’ roster this season, is a recent addition to Dallas’ closing committee. He scored a season-high 23 points in the game, carrying the Mavs in the early going and capping it with seven points in the fourth.
Add it all up, and the Mavs' trio outscored Houston's team by a 34-26 margin in the fourth to pull out a 117-110 win.
What it means: The defending NBA champions are pretty secure with their playoff positioning with three games remaining in the regular season. They’re up two and a half games with the tiebreaker on the Rockets and Suns, who top the list of West teams in lottery position. The Mavs can clinch a playoff spot with a home win Friday night over the beat-up Golden State Warriors. Pending the late Nuggets-Clippers outcome, the Mavs might be in sixth place in the West by the end of the night.
Bold play of the game: On a vintage Vinsanity night, Carter revved 'em up three times with over-the-rim acrobatics. The most important and impressive was a two-hand putback slam of a missed Terry layup that stretched the Mavs' lead to five points with 5:31 remaining.
Stat of the night: The Mavs are now 4-24 in games in which they trailed after three quarters.