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Terry leads Mavericks to ninth straight win; edge Rockets

Feb 16, 2007 - 7:00 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- With superstars Dirk Nowitzki and Tracy McGrady in a fourth-quarter duel, it was Jason Terry who ended up the hero for the Dallas Mavericks.

Nowitzki scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Terry scored the final six points of the game as the Mavericks edged the Houston Rockets, 80-77, to enter the All-Star break with a nine-game winning streak and an NBA-best 44-9 record.

Nowitzki and McGrady combined for 27 points in their 1-on-1 scoring battle in the final period of a game played with playoff intensity.

"I thought I had some good looks," Nowitzki said. "In the fourth quarter I was able to knock them down. In the playoffs every game is close. Those are the games you have to win."

"Two years ago in the playoffs McGrady and Nowitzki went back and forth like that, like 50 and 40 points," Terry added. "They're going to be taking their shots and making their shots."

Terry then went to work. The eight-year veteran made two free throws with 2:46 remaining to bring Dallas within 77-76. The point guard hit a pullup jumper from the right elbow with 69 seconds left to give the Mavericks a 78-77 lead.

After Luther Head missed a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left and clanked a runner in the lane with six ticks left, Terry nailed two from the charity stripe to put the Mavericks up three with 4.2 seconds left.

"I told my teammates, 'I'm there when you need me,'" Terry said. "I hadn't played well all night, but we believe in each other."

McGrady tried to dribble up court, but was pressured by Dallas' defense and time expired on his pass to the 3-point line to Juwan Howard.

"We missed free throws, got outrebounded in the second half and committed some stupid fouls in the fourth quarter," McGrady said. "They made shots down the stretch, we didn't."

Stackhouse added 17 points and was crucial to the Mavericks' late rally in the third quarter. Houston led by nine after a 3-pointer by McGrady with 4:24 left in the third quarter, Dallas went on a 12-0 run over the next four minutes, capped by back-to-back shots from the arc by Stackhouse.

"We have guys who have been in crunch time before," Stackhouse said. "You get four or five guys who don't mind stepping up and making the big shot. Dirk's having a MVP year. Josh (Howard) is showing he's an All-Star this year."

Dallas entered the final period leading, 58-57.

"When you have designs on being a high quality team, you have to figure out how to play better than that," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "It's the third straight time we've played them and been blitzed in the third quarter."

Josh Howard had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Terry added nine points for the Mavericks, who have won 30 of their last 32 contests.

"That was a tough, heavyweight boxing match," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We're fortunate to have a pretty good third quarter when they scored only 12 points."

McGrady finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds - his eighth double-double of the season - and Juwan Howard had 14 points for Houston, which shot only 39 percent (26-of-67) and have lost seven of eight vs. Dallas.

"We didn't play a complete game," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "You can talk about the last couple of minutes, but where we lost the game was in the third quarter."

Battier had 11 points for the Rockets, but his free throw with 3:01 left was the last point scored for Houston, which went 0-of-5 in that span.

"You know what they're going to do," McGrady added. "Once I get on a roll, they're going to take the ball out of my hands. They're going to send two guys at me and make somebody else make plays. Once again, we didn't know what to do and it worked in their favor."