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McGrady, Rockets too much for Nowitzki-less Mavericks

Mar 7, 2008 - 7:06 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Maybe it was merely gamesmanship that Tracy McGrady suggested that Dirk Nowitzki be suspended earlier in the week. Perhaps he just took a look at the upcoming schedule to ensure the Houston Rockets maintained their blistering pace.

McGrady had 31 points and Rafer Alston added a season-high 24 for the Rockets en route to a 113-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

Houston ran its franchise-high winning streak to 17 games, becoming just the sixth team in NBA history to post that many consecutive victories. The Rockets also ended their five-game skid at American Airlines Center and the Mavericks' 12-game home winning streak in the process.

"When you have guys playing with confidence, that's really what this league is all about," McGrady said. "If you have confidence, anything is possible. These guys have it. They're not afraid. Close games, they're willing to make a play. They're willing to do whatever it takes to win ball games."

Nowitzki, the reigning NBA MVP, served a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul he committed during Monday's 116-110 loss to the Utah Jazz. Shortly after seeing replays of the foul, McGrady publicly stated on Tuesday the league should consider suspending the Mavericks' leading scorer.

The foul - which left Utah's Andrei Kirilenko with a sprained hip - was originally designated as flagrant-2, but the league upgraded it on Wednesday to flagrant-1, which calls for a suspension.

"I don't think it had anything to do without Dirk not being here tonight," Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said. "We still scored almost 100 points - but we gave up 113 points - so it's our defense right now, with or without Dirk. We've got to find some answers on defense pretty quickly."

In suffering its worst home loss of the season, Dallas surrendered 100 points to Houston for the first time in its last 13 meetings.

"We're still a good team," Mavericks guard Jason Terry said. "You do miss the MVP out there, but at the same time - defensively - we didn't play at all out there tonight."

The Rockets, however, improved to 5-0 without their own post presence - center Yao Ming - who underwent season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot on Monday.

"We have to play a different style because we can't post them up at will," Alston said. "Now we understand there's a lot of energy that we're going to have to use out there because our post-up game, for the most part, has been taken away."

"That's because we've been in that situation before," McGrady said. "He (Yao) was out 2 1/2 months (last year) and we found some way to play without him. We had to change our game up, obviously. We don't have a low-post presence without him."

The Rockets, who led just 52-50 at intermission after Jerry Stackhouse nailed a 3-pointer as time expired, started to pull away from the Mavericks early in the third quarter.

After Kidd's long jumper knotted the contest at 55-55 with 10:12 left in the quarter, McGrady and Alston each hit a jumper to spark a period-ending 32-15 run that left Houston with a commanding 87-70 advantage.

"We felt very fortunate to be just down two at halftime and we felt that we hadn't played our best basketball and we got it tied up at one point. From that point on, they (the Rockets) were the aggressors," Kidd said. "We gave up 35 points in the third quarter and that really put us behind the eight ball."

Dallas, which could get no closer than the final margin, fell behind as many as 22 in the final quarter as McGrady, Bobby Jackson and rookie Carl Landry combined for 19 of the Rockets' first 20 points in the final quarter.

Landry scored 17 points and Jackson added 10 off the bench for the Rockets, who have won eighth straight games by a double-digit margin.

Howard scored 21 points to pace the Mavericks, who have dropped three straight contests.

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