DALLAS -- Forward Chandler Parsons scored 26 points and Houston Rockets escaped a late charge by the Dallas Mavericks for a 117-115 victory Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
One night after dispatching the San Antonio Spurs without James Harden (bruised left thumb), the Rockets persevered again without their leading scorer to beat another Southwest Division rival. This time they spoiled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki's 38-point, 17-rebound performance.
With less than five minutes to play and down by double-digits, Dallas resorted to fouling Rockets center and historically poor free throw shooter Dwight Howard. But Howard turned the tables and went 5-for-6 at the free throw line on those fouls. That put an end to the gimmick.
With 3:21 left, Howard was fouled in the act of shooting and made two more free throws for a 114-104 lead with little more than three minutes to play. He finished the game 9-for-11 at the line and with 21 points.
Down 116-104, Dallas made a run with guard Vince Carter hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 117-113 with about a minute to play. Nowitzki made two free throws with 22.2 seconds to go to make it a two-point game, 117-115. With 19.9 to go, Houston coughed up an inbounds play to give it back to Dallas. But guard Jose Calderon missed two 3-point attempts in the final five seconds to send the Rockets home with a win that evened the series, 2-2.
Houston (31-17) will enjoy a two-day break now and will hope to get Harden back in the lineup when they play host to Cleveland on Saturday. Dallas (26-21) will lament a lost opportunity as it opened a three-game homestand with Sacramento coming to town on Friday and Cleveland on Monday.
The Rockets also got strong performances from forward Terrence Jones, who had 16 points, Jeremy Lin, who had 18 points, as well as Aaron Brooks, who contributed 11 points off the bench.
Nowitzki, 13-for-21 from the floor, but 12-for-15 before going cold, was the lone Dallas starter to score in double figures. Guard Monta Ellis had just six points. Carter had 22 off the bench, guard Devin Harris had 24 and center DeJuan Blair had 13.
Houston led by six at halftime even though it shot 63.2 percent and went 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. That's because Dallas' potent offense hit half of its shots despite going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. The Rockets extended the lead to 12 points with an early third-quarter run.
But neither of these teams is very good at holding a double-digit lead and Dallas' potent offense quickly retaliated. Nowitzki swished a straightaway 3-pointer to tie it at 75 with 5:09 to left in the period. Houston led 91-85 after three quarters.
NOTES: Rockets G James Harden missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left thumb. G Jeremy Lin started in Harden's place. ... Dallas entered the game having won the last seven meetings against Houston at home. ... The Rockets are expected to place Harden and C Dwight Howard on the Western Conference All-Star team when the reserves, as picked by the respective conference coaches, are announced Thursday. Rockets coach Kevin McHale threw his support for selection to Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki, who is averaging a team-high 21.1 ppg. ... Houston beat San Antonio at home Tuesday night are 9-4 on the second night of back-to-backs. Houston entered the game having been held under 100 points in three consecutive games for the first time this season.