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Mavericks stay alive behind play of Ellis, Aminu and Barea

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Apr 26, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Al-Farouq Aminu (7) dunks the ball in front of Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) during the second half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeated the Rockets 121-109. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS – It took a lot of heart and a lot of guts in this one, how much you ask, “100 percent, we weren’t ready to go home,” Monta Ellis said after dropping a game-high 31 points as the Dallas Mavericks avoided the sweep with a 121-109 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4 Sunday night.

Ellis, who scored 34 points in the Mavericks’ Game 3 loss, shot 13 of 21 from the floor and added six rebounds and three assists. He’s scored back-to-back 30 or more in the postseason after his previous playoff high was 29.

“Relentless – non-stop, next play mentality and good or bad, he kept playing and kept charging toward like a freight train,” Rick Carlisle said.

Dallas, which had struggled all season long in the third quarter, outscored Houston 33-22 in the third frame to go up 94-75 into the fourth. Dirk Nowitzki found Richard Jefferson for a corner three, which bounced off the rim high and came down through the net.

“It was great, total team effort, all the way to the last man on the bench. We were down 10, kept our composure, go play by play, get stops when we needed. Biggest thing whole season was the third quarter and we did an excellent job to start the third and finish the game out,” Ellis said.

Houston wasn’t done yet, trying for the sweep and just its second playoff series win in its last 13 tries.

Corey Brewer scored four and Josh Smith had five as the Rockets started the fourth on a 9-2 run to cut it to 96-82 with 9:44 left, which led to a Dallas timeout.

Smith hit again to make it 12 then the two teams went back-and-forth until Richard Jefferson picked up a technical foul with 4:30 left. James Harden hit the free throw and the Rockets found themselves down 109-100.

Ellis knocked down a 25-foot 3-pointer out of Dallas’ timeout and the Mavericks hung on, avoiding the second sweep in the Nowitzki era (2012 OKC).

“Didn’t come with the effort and energy we needed tonight. Let this one go, got ugly. so gotta let this one go,” Dwight Howard said.

Harden scored a team-high 24 points for Houston, which goes back to host Game 5, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Howard, who grabbed 26 rebounds Friday night, was held to seven and 13 points.

“I think they did a good job off the glass so every time I went to go block the shot, Tyson [Chandler] was there to clean it up,” he said. “Their effort was excellent tonight compared to ours and we just have to go back home, regroup, and get the next one.”

J.J. Barea started at point guard and finished off his first career playoff double-double with 17 points and 13 dimes. Al-Farouq Aminu also started, in place of Jefferson and Chandler Parsons and went for 16 points and 12 boards.

“Somewhat two of the more effective players in the series. We felt we needed as much rebounding in the game to start. Difference was 52-38 on the boards for us, that was the game,” Carlisle said.

“I thought J.J. and Al-Farouq were phenomenal tonight. Both of them got in because Raymond [Felton] and RJ were banged up and it was kind of the next man up mentality,” Nowitzki added. “Stepped in and both were great.”

“I thought J.J. was wheeling around, running in the paint, getting good looks – I’ve never seen him with 13 assists in one game so that was phenomenal. He was attacking and making stuff happen for us and that’s what we need him to do.”

Barea had five first-quarter assists and eight at halftime while Ellis scored 12 in the third. Barea scored 10 in the second and Nowitzki scored 10 of his 16 in the final quarter.

A key play in the game came at the 8:59 mark of the second and Houston up 38-31. The Rockets were in the fast-break when Howard was going to have an easy bucket over Devin Harris, but the latter bear-hugged Howard and seemingly tackled him to the ground. The crowd was ignited by the effort, which was ruled a flagrant 1, but it seemed to be a turning point in the contest.

“It turned the game around. On top of that, he missed one of two free throws, and we were able to get out on a run and build on that,” Ellis said.

“There’s tons of plays out there. We just did a better job matching them today. We held them to a few offensive rebounds and when we do that, we’re in pretty good shape,” Nowitzki added. “Devin’s foul is making a hard stand, not going to give up another dunk and that was a big play for us.”

Houston led 34-25 after one, but Dallas ended the final 8:23 of the first half with a 31-12 run, erasing a 41-31 deficit and turning that into a 61-53 halftime lead. Dallas, which outscored Houston 20-4 on second-chance opportunities, outshot the Rockets 55.6 percent to 27.3 percent in the second quarter.

With the win, the Mavericks improved to 17-18 all time in elimination games.

Tonight’s attendance was 20,589.

GAME 5- Houston, Tuesday 7 p.m. TNT

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