Brooks scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left, and also had eight assists to lead the Rockets to a 93-86 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
Brooks was making his eighth start of the season, but this one had a different feel. The position is his for good now and he couldn't help but feel a bit more pressure before the game.
"You try to keep it the same, but you're definitely a little bit nervous," Brooks said. "But I'm nervous every game. That's when I play my best."
Brooks went 7-for-15 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. He also had four turnovers -- but only one in the second half.
"I just play," he said, "and once I get up and down a couple times and realize it's just basketball, I'm going to be all right."
Jose Juan Barea scored a career-high 26 points for the Mavericks and his drive with 1:41 left cut Houston's lead to 89-86. The Rockets missed three shots on their next possession, but Barea committed a turnover at the other end.
Brooks then swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key and clenched his fist as he jogged down the court.
"He's always had that confidence," Shane Battier said. "In the games he's played down the stretch, he's hit some pretty big shots for us. He's not scared to take that shot."
The Rockets led by 10 after three quarters, but committed nine turnovers in the first nine minutes of the fourth to fuel the Mavs' comeback.
Barea sank a 3-pointer and a mid-range shot to cut Dallas' deficit to 76-73. Yao returned from a brief rest with 5:53 left and Houston leading 81-77.
Brooks hit a free throw and Scola scored, but Brandon Bass hit consecutive jumpers to pull the Mavs to within three.
Houston coach Rick Adelman had used Brooks in favor of Alston late in recent games and the Rockets' first-round pick in 2007 proved again that he's the right man for the job.
"He's going to make big shots," Adelman said. "It did not surprise me that he made those shots down the stretch. He has the ability, he's done that his whole career in college."
"You only get Dirk shooting like that once a year," Bass said. "Now it is out of his system."
Houston got an early injury scare when Yao ran into Howard in the first quarter, grabbed his right knee and fell down in pain. But Yao stayed in, a major relief for the Rockets after Tracy McGrady announced this week that he's done for the season to have knee surgery.
Howard scored 12 points in the first quarter and Dallas led 28-19. Von Wafer and Brent Barry swished long jumpers early in the second quarter to cut the deficit to four, but the Mavs answered with a 9-0 burst to push the lead back to double digits.
The Mavs missed nine of their last 11 shots of the half and Houston used a 13-4 spurt to trim the Dallas lead to 51-44. Nowitzki went 1-for-9 from the field in the half, but Howard scored 16 points on 7-for-15 shooting.
The Rockets opened the third quarter with a 24-6 spurt as the Mavericks got increasingly sloppy on offense, taking bad shots and coughing up turnovers.
Brooks sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 8:19 left in the third quarter to put Houston ahead for the first time since the opening minutes. After the good first half, Howard had an awful third quarter, scoring only two points with four turnovers.
A minute after Howard threw a pass out of bounds, Brooks dribbled into traffic and found Shane Battier open for a 3-pointer that put the Rockets up 68-57.
"We had a good first half, but Houston came out aggressively in the third quarter and took over the game," Barea said.
Brooks left late in the third quarter with a cut over his left eye. He got two stitches on the bench as Lowry finished the quarter. Lowry had six points and two assists in his Rockets' debut. Cook did not play.
Houston F Carl Landry sat out with a sprained right ankle. ... Dallas G Jerry Stackhouse was activated after missing three months with a right foot injury. He didn't score in nine minutes of action. ... The Rockets used their 16th different starting lineup. ... Houston improved to 14-6 without McGrady this season.
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