The Houston Rockets are going to the Western Conference Semifinals after eliminating the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 with a 103-94 win.
The Rockets controlled the game from start to finish, and they ended with a nine-point lead after the two teams clashed at the beginning of the quarter.
Shooting guard James Harden got off to a great start by scoring nine points in the first quarter, and small forward Josh Smith added eight points by staying hot at the three-point line. Smith had scored 23 points in Game 4 for the Rockets.
In the second quarter, the Rockets extended their lead before the Mavericks began to show a sense of urgency and bring the game within three points with 33 seconds left in the game.
They went on an 18-5 run, but Harden proved that he can be clutch at any time in a game as he made a three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the quarter.
After Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis turned the ball over, the Rockets were able to run the clock out and go into halftime with a 56-50 lead.
While the Mavericks were able to bring it within one in the third quarter, the Rockets went on a 19-6 run. They held a big lead for the rest of the third quarter.
Ellis was able to make it an 82-75 game though, as he made a three-pointer with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Rockets continued to hold the Mavericks off in the fourth quarter, and power forward Terrence Jones joined Harden in making clutch plays.
After the Mavericks trimmed the Rockets’ lead to three with about five minutes left, Jones started out by making a layup while plowing through Dirk Nowitzki, who fouled him and gave the Rockets another point.
Jones drilled a three-pointer after that three-point play, giving the Rockets a 94-85 lead.
With three minutes remaining, the Mavericks cut the Rockets’ lead to five.
Shooting guard James Harden came through when his team needed him the most, as he drilled a three-pointer that held off the Mavericks before they could come up with any sort of last-minute rally.
After Mavericks center Tyson Chandler dunked the ball with just under two minutes left, Jones dunked the ball twice for the Rockets to give them a 10-point lead.
Nowitzki made a costly error that enabled Harden to steal the ball and pass to Jones for this slam dunk that marked the Mavericks’ demise.
Harden scored 28 points for the Rockets and made himself an even more enticing MVP candidate with his solid play from start to finish, and he added eight assists.
Smith added 20 points off the bench in a nice follow-up to his Game 4, and he added eight rebounds to his night.
Center Dwight Howard also performed well, as he received a standing ovation after scoring 18 points with a whopping 19 rebounds. He also contributed four steals and four blocks. Jones chipped in 15 points with five rebounds.
For the Mavericks, Ellis scored 25 points with four rebounds and seven assists while Nowitzki added 22 points with 14 rebounds.
Nowitzki looked like a shell of his former self, as he had a rough start and finished with 8-of-23 shooting.
He has two years remaining on his contract and is 37 years old, but it will be difficult for the Mavericks to contend for a title again in the Western Conference, which is as deep as ever.
The Rockets will face the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-San Antonio Spurs series, which is currently tied, 2-2.