01/16/2007 Mavericks vs. Houston

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The Houston Rockets were willing to take their chances riding the shooting of Tracy McGrady. The Dallas Mavericks didn't need to rely on any one player. Their team approach worked just fine.

Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard played their usual starring roles and Devean George made the biggest plays off the bench, slowing McGrady in the second half and hitting the consecutive 3-pointers that sent the Mavs rolling toward a 109-96 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

McGrady scored a season-high 45 points, but his solo act wasn't enough -- not when Dallas was able to get 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists from Nowitzki, 28 points from Josh Howard and still 14 more from George.

George was 4-of-5 on 3-pointers, including a pair that started a 15-2 spurt that helped the Mavericks tie it. The Rockets hardly challenged him.

"I didn't think he could make that many in a row," Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo said.

George gladly made them pay. After one particular basket, he looked offended at not having been covered.

"I just got a little fired up," he said. "They left me wide open, so I had to knock them down."

George also was a big part of a swarming defense that frustrated McGrady into shooting 7-of-16 in the second half after he'd gone 10-of-13 in the first half.

"As a role player, my job is to see what's missing and provide it," George said.

As a star player, McGrady may have tried doing too much.

McGrady scored Houston's first 12 points and 16 of 18. Problem was, his surge prevented any of his teammates from getting into a groove. No other Rockets player had more than a single basket until there was 1:51 left until halftime.

In the second half, the Mavericks began mixing up his defenders and sending different guys at him on double teams. After Nowitzki sparked a 20-4 run that put the game away, McGrady headed for the bench with 2:14 left. He went to the locker room soon after because of a stiff back that he insisted was "nothing major."

"It's pretty frustrating to lose when you play well like that," McGrady said. "They're a great team, we knew that. That's why I attacked early. But it wasn't enough. We still have a ways to go before we catch up to this team."

Dallas avenged a 31-point loss at Houston earlier this season and tightened its claim as the hottest team in Texas.

The Mavericks have won five straight games and 18 of 19. The Rockets had won four straight and nine of 10.

Nowitzki, who was named the conference player of the week earlier in the day, cracked 30 points for the sixth time in nine games.

Houston's game plan was for McGrady to take a lot of early shots, and he certainly followed orders. He had 10 points before even passing the ball. Mutombo may have been surprised to get it because he traveled. The game was nearly five minutes old when someone else scored for Houston.

McGrady was 9-of-11 in the first quarter. His only basket in the second quarter was a 3-pointer in the final half-minute, but he also got to the line several times.

"They went smaller in the second half, tried to deny me on the pick-and-roll, give me different looks," McGrady said. "Their intensity went up and they took the game away from us."

McGrady finished with 17 baskets, the same number as the rest of his teammates combined. However, his came on 29 attempts; theirs on 46.

Juwan Howard scored 16 points and Rafer Alston had 12. Dikembe Mutombo had 10 rebounds. McGrady also had a team-high seven assists and added five rebounds.

Notes

McGrady's 29-point first half was the best of the season by Houston. ... His 21-point first quarter was the most against Dallas since Kobe Bryant had 30 during a 62-point game last season. ... The Mavs have claimed three of the last four Western Conference player of the week awards. Josh Howard got the other two. ... In a pregame ceremony, Nowitzki received the EUROSCAR Award for the fifth straight year. It is given annually to Europe's top player by La Gazzetta dello Sport, a daily sports newspaper in Italy. ... Nowitzki has been player of the week seven times in his career -- four more than any other player in Dallas history.