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Rockets lost to Mavericks 106-102
Updated: 2005-04-29 13:28

Playing with the desperation of a team facing elimination, even though they weren't, the Dallas Mavericks clawed their way back into their first-round series against the Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Houston Rockets Tracy McGrady celebrates with fans after the Rockets scored past the Dallas Mavericks in the second half of their 2005 NBA Western Conference quarterfinals Game 3 in Houston, April 28, 2005. The Rockets lead the best-of-seven series 2-0. [Reuters]

It took a rejuvenated Dirk Nowitzki to save them in a 106-102 victory.

Nowitzki emerged from a two-game slump to score 28 points and keyed a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter that deflated the Rockets in Game 3. 

Michael Finley scored 20 points, Jerry Stackhouse added 18 and Josh Howard had five big points in the late comeback, ending Houston's nine-game win streak and finally giving the Mavericks confidence that they can keep up with the surging Rockets.

Dallas has a chance to even the Western Conference series in Game 4 Saturday night. Game 5 is in Dallas on Monday night.

Trailing 88-80 early in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks seemed on their way to a 3-0 series deficit — a hole no NBA team has ever rallied from.

But Finley hit a jumper, Nowitzki dunked on a fast break, Finley buried another 3 and Jason Terry made a couple of free throws to retake the lead midway through the quarter.

The Mavs also got some help down the stretch from Houston. Tracy McGrady missed two free throws, Houston misfired on seven straight shots and the Rockets showed an uncharacteristic lack of poise — especially for the league's oldest team.

Howard, a second-year forward who's been clutch for the Mavs in the postseason, completed a three-point play and scored on a short jumper to finish off the run, putting Dallas ahead 100-88.

McGrady had another big game for the Rockets, finishing with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Bob Sura added 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

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