- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DALLAS (AP) - Jason Kidd notched a triple-double and Jason Terry was superb in the fourth quarter, powering the Dallas Mavericks to a 95-84 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night that started the dominoes tumbling in the Western Conference playoff chase.

The teams left the court not knowing their seeds, with the New Orleans-San Antonio game in overtime. The Spurs pulled it out, giving them the No. 3 seed and securing No. 6 for Dallas _ which means those teams will meet in the first round. It’ll be their first postseason matchup since a memorable seven-game series in 2006, which the Mavs won on their way to the NBA finals.

Houston blew a 14-point lead and ended a five-game winning streak. A win would’ve given the Rockets the No. 2 seed and their first division title since 1994; instead, they might drop all the way to No. 5 and start the playoffs on the road. They will definitely play Portland; whether the Trail Blazers or Rockets are seeded fourth and have home-court advantage will depend on whether Portland wins at home against Denver later Wednesday night.

Yao Ming dominated in the second quarter and had Houston well in control when things turned quickly. The Mavericks stopped settling for jumpers, started going hard to the basket and got their crowd back into the game.

Dallas used an 18-4 run to tie the game late in the third quarter, then back-to-back 3-pointers by Terry and Kidd put the Mavericks ahead midway through the fourth quarter. A scooping pass from Kidd to Terry stretched the lead and started a spurt of nine straight points by Terry. The Rockets never threatened again _ and Yao didn’t have a single point in the final period.



“It’s not one or two guys, it’s the whole team,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “We have to get in the right spots and you’ve got to be aggressive in moving the ball and understanding that they’re taking away with the front and attack the other sides.”

Kidd had 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season and 103rd of his career. Terry scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, making his first six shots; the only one he missed was a long 3 after the outcome had been decided. Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points and 15 rebounds.

The Mavericks started this season 2-7 and were 0-4 at home, but they closed by winning five of their last six to vault from the No. 8 seed to No. 6. This victory also gave them 50 wins _ and a 15-1 record at home since the All-Star break. Terry left the court making a 5 and an 0 with his hands to celebrate the team’s ninth straight season reaching that mark.

He also lived up to his pregame speech to fans, when he said: “I promise you one thing: The best is yet to come.”

Yao finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. He got four fouls in the third quarter and wasn’t the same after that. Kyle Lowry scored 15 and Ron Artest had 10 in a loss that could become a painful memory for the Rockets if things go awry in the playoffs.

The high stakes of this game were obvious from the start. On the opening possession, Nowitzki shoved Luis Scola just for the heck of it, then Artest hooked an arm around Nowitzki to twist him out of the way and was called for a foul.

Nowitzki started 7-for-8 and Dallas went up by 10 late in the first quarter. Then Yao scored 19 points in the second quarter and the Rockets were up by eight at halftime.

Notes:@ Mavs swingman Josh Howard returned from a one-game rest of his sore left ankle to miss his first seven shots. He finished with 15 points. … Nowitzki cracked 20 points for the 25th straight game. … Houston had won two straight in Dallas. … With Houston leading 70-67 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, the Rockets’ Kyle Lowry put up a short shot that wedged between the rim and backboard. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle must’ve expected the shot to miss because he slumped his shoulders when it got stuck. He cheered up when the Mavs won the ensuing jump ball.

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