Rockets find a way; West at-a-glance, 4/3

Light night on the NBA schedule as usual on a Thursday night, but no shortage of excitement. Once again, the lead atop the southwest division shifted to Houston, along with the second seed in the conference standings. The Warriors and Suns put on an offensive showcase – well at least for the final two minutes.

Last night: Rockets 108, Mavericks 101, Warriors 107, Suns 106

In a never that never seemed to have any flow, the Rockets turned to their defense down the stretch to grab a crucial win on the road at Dallas. The win earned the Rockets a 3-1 season series victory over the Mavericks, but much more important than winning that is the win improved Houston’s division record to 7-6. Houston slides a half-game ahead of Memphis overall, if the teams finished  the season tied, the next tiebreaker used, since the teams split their season series will be division record. Memphis is 8-7, with their lone division game remaining against New Orleans next week in Memphis. Houston also host New Orleans on April 13, and before that has a home and home with San Antonio.

For the first time this season against Dallas, Houston had Dwight Howard available, but he was again on a minutes restriction and only played 18:02 and finished with eight points and seven rebounds. One thing that stood out in his performance was his trip to the free throw line when he made both attempts. That only stand out because the Rockets alternates at center both got minutes and both were exposed, yet again for subpar free throw shooting.

It was only the first quarter, but after Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle watched Joey Dorsey’s first four free throws – including an air ball and a shot that smashed off the backboard and just one make – he decided to implement the hack-a-bad-free-throw-shooter strategy.

After intentionally fouling Dorsey, he complied by missing both free throws, but Houston’s Corey Brewer grabbed the offensive rebound after the second miss and the Rockets turned it into a 3-pointer from Harden. That gave Houston a 28-25 lead after the first quarter. Rookie Clint Capela got his turn at the free throw line and it came only two seconds after he entered the game in the second quarter. Apparently, statistics are readily available to the Mavericks, since they wasted no time sending Capela to the line where he had missed all 13 of his career free throw attempts. Make it 15 after two misses that bounced off the back heel. Again, Houston got the offensive rebound, but this time Harden missed a 3-point shot. Capela’s night was over after only 13 seconds of play.

To the game that was ultimately decided when the Rockets turned up the defense in the final seven minutes. Houston was down by six having allowed three consecutive 3-pointers to J.J. Barea, Richard Jefferson and Al-Farouq Aminu. They held the Mavericks to just 2-12 shooting the rest of the game and dominated the glass, grabbing all but four of the 14 available rebounds. Josh Smith was particularly effective with six rebounds, a block and a steal during that stretch. He also made both of his free throws and his teammates made all eight of their to claim the seven point win. By the way, Smith was also a target of the hack-a-bad-free-throw-shooter strategy in the third quarter, but he made both of his attempts then, too.

The Warriors have struggled to maintain focus over the entirety of their last few games and their game against Phoenix was no different. They had a 13-point lead in the second quarter, but found themselves down four with two minutes remaining. As usual, though, their offense found it’s rhythm as they scored on five of their final six possessions, including a 3-pointer from Klay Thompson that tied the game at 102 with under a minute left and a 3-pointer from Steph Curry that gave the Warriors the lead with just six seconds remaining. The Suns scored on four of their final five possessions, which included a reverse layup from Eric Bledsoe after Curry’s bucket that Phoenix thought might give them the win. The Suns scored on four of their final five possessions.

But Harrison Barnes was able to get the basket and throw up a shot that bounced around and in with less than a second remaining.

A three-quarter court heave with less than a second left for the win missed from T.J. Warren and the Warriors got their 62nd win.

Tonight: Grizzlies at Thunder, Nuggets at Spurs, Blazers at Lakers 

Memphis knows they are in a fight for the division crown and the number two seed with the Rockets, but Oklahoma City is also in a fight for the eighth and final playoff spot with New Orleans. The Pelicans are at the Kings and could move to within one-half game of Oklahoma City if they win and the Thunder lose. The teams would also be tied in the loss column with 34.

San Antonio has won 15 of their last 18 games and all three of their games against Denver as they still have hope of catching the teams in front of them, including Houston. The Blazers will be without Dorell Wright, who broke a bone in his left hand in Portland’s loss to the Clippers a few days ago, but are facing the Lakers against whom they are 3-0.

Here’s the look at the standings and the remaining schedule. Click the graphic to enlarge.

nbaremaining43

Click here for tiebreaking procedures

Check back daily for the latest updates.

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