Chandler Parsons is sizzling, but Mavs can't get stops

Harden's triple-double lifts Rockets (1:05)

James Harden scores 23 points, grabs 15 rebounds and hands out 10 assists in the Rockets' 115-104 victory over the Mavericks. (1:05)

HOUSTON – It doesn't matter how efficiently Chandler Parsons scores when the Dallas Mavericks are that dreadful defensively.

Parsons continued his sizzling streak Sunday, scoring a season-high 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. But the most eye-popping number in his stat line from the 115-104 loss to the Houston Rockets was far from pretty: minus-30.

How did the Mavs manage to be outscored by 30 with Parsons on the court during his best offensive performance of the season?

"There's a lot more to the game than just putting the ball in the basket, obviously," coach Rick Carlisle said. "If a guy scores 31 points and we're minus-30, I've got to coach him better in other areas. I think it's pretty clear, because if you're scoring that many points, there must be other holes that we've got to fill."

Parsons, who struggled for most of the first two months of the season while coming back from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee, is playing as well as he ever has offensively. In the past three games, he has averaged 29 points on 60.1 percent shooting -- including 12-of-18 on 3s -- while putting together his three highest-scoring games of the season.

But Parsons' prolific offensive performances this week haven't translated to team success. The Mavs are 1-2 during his scorching stretch, giving up 109 and 115 points in the last two games.

Parsons, who had a positive plus-minus in Friday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, didn't appreciate seemingly being singled out by his coach after Sunday's defensive disaster, when Dallas gave up 65 points in the second half.

"I think defense is a team thing," said Parsons, whose defensive rating of 101.2 points per 100 possessions this season is better than the Mavs' norm (102.5). "I think all five guys have to collectively be in it together. If one guy has a mistake, that's what the four other guys are there for, to cover for him. We've got a lot of guys making mistakes that everybody's going to have to cover for.

"It's not one person. It's everybody. We have to play harder, we have to play tougher."

The Carlisle-Parsons disagreement is timid compared to the heated argument that happened between Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea during the Rockets' critical 14-4 run early in the fourth quarter.

Nowitzki shouted at Barea after a Dallas defensive breakdown resulted in ex-Maverick Jason Terry making a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner. They barked at each other during a timeout 28 seconds later after Josh Smith got the big German to bite badly on a shot fake and dropped in an easy lefty hook. The problem in that case: Nowitzki called one defensive coverage, but Barea ran another.

"We're not on the same page," Barea said. "We've got to get on the same page. We're just not doing the same thing."

A Nowitzki-Barea beef concerns exactly nobody in the Mavs' locker room. They're a couple of intense, emotional competitors who have had their share of in-the-moment arguments with teammates. (Some of the most memorable for each involved Terry, ironically.) They're also professionals and good friends who will have no problems moving past that public tiff.

"Sometimes frustration sets in," Deron Williams said. "It's just one of those things that happen sometimes. As long as we stay together, we're good. There's no animosity. We know that's just the heat of the battle. Guys want to win, so those things are going to happen."

Dallas' defensive issues are much more concerning. The Mavs have some major defensive challenges because of personnel, particularly Nowitzki. They have to scheme to help the 37-year-old legend as much as possible. Opponents' game plans put a big target on Nowitzki.

The Rockets on Sunday were a perfect example. Trevor Ariza started at power forward and scored 16 of his season-high 29 points in the first quarter. Smith, as he often did during the Mavs' first-round playoff loss last season, exploited Nowitzki during the fourth quarter with five points and an assist during that 14-4 run.

"They got whatever they wanted there in that phase," said Nowitzki, who was minus-13 in 3:59 during the fourth quarter.

The Mavs must work together like five fingers to be a decent defensive team. They have to use intelligence to make up for a lack of athleticism. Communication breakdowns spell doom.

A sense of urgency is in order. The sixth-place Mavs (25-21) are only a game ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings. The seven seed would get the honor of opening the playoffs against either the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors.

"You don't want to fall in that seven-eight range and play one of the best two teams in basketball [in the] first round," Parsons said. "We've definitely got to clean up. We've got to be better."