HOUSTON — Raymond Felton and Charlie Villanueva sparked a makeshift lineup to a decisive early lead as the Dallas Mavericks claimed a wire-to-wire, 110-98 victory over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
Felton scored 15 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and Villanueva added 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field to lead six Mavericks in double figures.
Dallas rested starters Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews after a Friday night win over the Los Angeles Lakers, but the energy supplied by their replacements was palpable.
“I’m not surprised. I really believe in our group, I believe in our depth,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “I like our team one through 15. We had to do this tonight to do the right thing toward getting fully healthy.”
After forward Terrence Jones scored nine of his 23 points in the third quarter and guard James Harden helped the Rockets cut the deficit to 87-77 with 7:52 to play, Felton carried Dallas (6-4) home with a series of dagger jumpers to preserve the Mavericks’ third consecutive victory.
“It feels good,” said Felton, whose point total was his highest since he scored 27 on April 28, 2013 for the New York Knicks against the Boston Celtics. “Started this season just to be healthy, to be able to come out and help this team any way I can has been my biggest thing, is what I’ve been waiting on this year.
“To have an opportunity like I did tonight and have it end the way it did for me was great.”
Houston (4-6) has dropped three games in succession and
fell to 2-4 at home.
Harden missed his first 11 shots from the field and finished with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. And while guard Jason Terry added 19 points off the bench on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor, Houston shot 38.1 percent from the field and 26.5 percent from long range.
The Mavericks blitzed the Rockets’ indifferent perimeter defenders, turning a series of uncontested dribble penetrations into driving layups and open 3-pointers. By the time Villanueva drilled the Mavericks’ fourth trey of the first quarter, Dallas led 20-11 with 5:23 left in the quarter.
The Rockets’ second period was a comedy of errors, with errant passes and point-blank misses turning the partisan crowd against them. The Mavericks extended their lead to 26 points when Felton converted a driving layup with 3:33 left in the second quarter.
“Until we talk to each other and talk more on the court, we’re never going to win,” Rockets swingman Corey Brewer said. “We’ve got to get engaged as a team.”
Even with Dallas going 0 of 8 from behind the arc in the second quarter, the Rockets failed to make up any ground, posting 14 points on 5-of-24 shooting from the floor. The Mavericks led 57-34 at the intermission.
“To the guys’ credit, they did find a way to get a little gas (and) fight back in the second half, but that was about as bad as it can get,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “That is as bad as it can get, I hope. I can’t imagine it getting much worse than that.”