The Dallas Mavericks aren’t ready to go home, beating the Houston Rockets 121-109 to make it 3-1 in the series, as the insertion of J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu into the lineup seems to be something their opponents have yet to come to grips with.
Rick Carlisle didn’t have a choice but to change something, because going with the Felton-Jefferson duo in the lineup was like waving a white flag. He went for speed and athleticism and made the right choice. The lineup that included Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Barea and Aminu played together for 18 minutes. In that time, they had an offensive rating of 118.4 and a defensive rating of 65.7.
The Rockets actually started quite well, leading by nine points at the end of the first quarter. But from there, the only one who was operating at more or less his normal level was James Harden, scoring 24 points. Dwight Howard couldn’t stop missing from the line (3-of-13), Trevor Arizna and Jason Terry went cold from long range and the defense seemed a bit at a loss for the first time in this series.
Ellis led the way with 31 points but the entire starting lineup scored in double figures. Barea had 13 assists, Chandler and Aminu grabbed a combined nine offensive rebounds. For the first time in this series, the Mavericks looked like the faster, younger, fresher and hungrier team, actually winning in the little things and not letting the Rockets’ superiority from the bench become a factor until it was too late.
So has Carlisle found the winning formula? Things will be different in game 5, in Houston. The referees aren’t allowing a lot of contact, giving the Rockets the edge. If they would have been making their free throws (missing 14 of them, 10 by Howard), maybe we would be talking of yet another sweep. We’ll see more of the Mavs’ magic lineup next game, but don’t be surprised to find out it was just a one-time solution.