DALLAS, May 2 -- Minutes away from finally leading their first-round playoff series, the Dallas Mavericks proved they deserved it.
Keeping alive rebounds, diving for loose balls and making clutch shot after clutch shot, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks held off a late charge by Houston and pulled out a 103-100 victory Monday night, putting them ahead 3-2 in a series they trailed 0-2 after their previous game in Dallas.
Houston reserve center Dikembe Mutombo, left, and Dallas forward Jerry Stackhouse battle for a rebound.
(Khampha Bouaphanh -- AP)
After overcoming fourth-quarter deficits of eight and six points to win the last two games, the Mavs led by 11 just seconds into the final period this time. But Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming rallied the Rockets, combining for their last 13 points and getting them within two with 7.4 seconds left.
Jason Terry scrambled to grab an inbounds pass, was fouled and made 1 of 2 foul shots to restore a three-point cushion. Dallas immediately fouled McGrady on the ensuing inbounds pass and he missed both foul shots -- the second intentionally -- but got his own rebound and put up a three-pointer from the left corner that could have tied it. It missed and time expired with McGrady on the ground, practically under some courtside seats.
Home fans were happy for the first time this series and now Dallas has two chances to join the 1969 Lakers and '94 Rockets as the only teams to win a seven-game series after dropping the first two at home. Mavs fans will be glad to know those Lakers and Rockets squads were propelled by home wins in Game 5.
Yao scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, making 6 of 7 shots and getting to the foul line on the one he missed. However, he was just 3 of 8 from the line in the period, with all five misses in a row. He also had four fouls, matching his fewest of the series. He didn't get his first until seconds into the second quarter and had just one in the second half.
McGrady scored 25 points, his lowest this series, but added nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. Mike James added 16 points in a reserve role.
The Rockets never led in the second half and their biggest lead was just one point. But a spurt of eight straight points that ended with a three-pointer by Jon Barry with 3:22 left kept this one interesting until the final buzzer.
The difference was Dallas's determination, best exemplified by two plays after that.
Barry had a rebound poked away by Michael Finley with just under a minute left. The play was very similar to McGrady's lost ball in the closing seconds of Game 4 on a poke by Josh Howard. This time, Jerry Stackhouse grabbed it, was fouled and hit both shots for a 99-94 lead.
After Yao dunked the rebound of a miss by McGrady, the Mavericks ran down the shot clock, then Terry put up a wild layup. Nowitzki caught the carom and threw it in to keep the lead at five with 20.2 seconds left.
Nowitzki still hasn't come out of his series-long scoring funk, making just 9 of 22 shots, but he led Dallas with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He had four steals, all in the third quarter.