for this game

Brooks, shorthanded Rockets shoot down Mavs

Feb 21, 2009 - 5:21 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Aaron Brooks, making just his eighth start of the season, nailed a back-breaking three in the waning seconds, as the Houston Rockets responded well without Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston in a 93-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.

Yao Ming had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Brooks added 19 points for the Rockets, who will play the rest of the season without their oft-injured superstar swingman and their recently traded starting point guard.

"It feels different, of course," Yao said. "Aaron is different from Rafer. He made big shots. He did well on Jason Kidd. It's not that easy. Sometimes, we struggle on defense."

They did well in all aspects, despite their new look.

McGrady had been battling a sore left knee for much of the season, then announced on his web site Wednesday that he will undergo a season-ending procedure in an attempt to get rid of the pain.

Houston has been just fine in his absence so far this season, improving to 14-6 in McGrady's stead.

"After the trade and finding out Tracy wasn't going to play and all the things we're going through, this is an effort victory, and we needed it," Houston forward Luis Scola said.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle warned the league not to sleep on the Rockets without their superstar.

"McGrady is a great player, but they'll be plenty tough without him," the coach said.

Alston was dealt to the Orlando Magic prior to Thursday's trade deadline, allowing Brooks a chance to start in his place and be the hero. He nailed a 3-pointer with 24 ticks remaining to forge the Rockets' six-point lead and beat back the Mavs.

"The shot clock was winding down and I was open, so I shot it," Brooks said. "If it wasn't for the defense, we wouldn't have gotten it done."

"You have confidence in him," Houston coach Rick Adelman said of Brooks. "He's going to make big shots. It doesn't surprise me he made them tonight because he did that in college."

Dallas, however, would not go down easy in the fourth quarter, when it cut a 10-point deficit entering the final period down to three on several occasions. Guard Jose Juan Barea and forward Brandon Bass combined to score 22 consecutive points during the Mavericks' rally.

Barea nailed a running floater to cut it to three with 1:41 left but, after an empty possession by Houston, threw a bad pass in transition. That led to a secondary break for the Rockets and a wide-open three for Brooks.

Barea scored a career-high 26 points for the Dallas, which fell behind by as many as 21 in the third, when Houston went on a 24-4 run.

"Our undoing was the third quarter," Carlisle said. "We had seven turnovers and we only shot 35 percent. We battled back in the fourth quarter and I loved our effort, but we dug too big of a hole. We are in the stretch run and we have to learn it is a 48-minute game."

"It was the third quarter when we couldn't respond to their run," Mavs forward Josh Howard said. "It's down to (crunch) time, and we have to keep playing hard every game. We are a playoff-bound team and we'll be there at the end."

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas' leading scorer, had a poor shooting night, scoring just nine points on 4-of-18 from the field.

"I just try to be physical with him, limit his possessions, which is difficult," Scola said of guarding Nowitzki. "Make him shoot over the top and hope he misses. We were lucky tonight."