The Smoking Cuban
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Dallas Mavericks Claw Their Way to Huge Win Against Houston

Apr 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) and center Salah Mejri (50) guard Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) and center Salah Mejri (50) guard Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) during the first half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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In a game they absolutely had to win, the Dallas Mavericks held on against Houston to collect their fifth straight win and improve their playoff chances.

Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Rockets was an absolute must-have for the Dallas Mavericks. Coming in to the contest Dallas held a one-game lead in the standings over the ninth-place Rockets, but face a much tougher schedule down the stretch.

But with their 88-86 win in a game that came down to the final ticks, the Mavericks have given themselves a two-game cushion over their rivals with only four games left on the slate.

Dallas got another huge performance from J.J. Barea, and held their opponent to fewer than 90 points for the fifth straight game, allowing the team to escape with yet another victory in which Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t much of a factor offensively. Barea scored 27 points (10-16 FG, 4-7 3P), dished out 8 assists, and snagged five boards in 37 minutes.

Nowitzki scored just seven points, but did come up with a huge defensive play to help secure the win late in the game when he stripped James Harden of the ball on what appeared to be drive for a lay-in waiting to happen. Nowitzki struggling with his touch obviously isn’t ideal, but it’s comforting to know that the defensive can be stingy enough, and the supporting cast productive enough, to weather a slump from their leading scorer.

Speaking of big defensive plays, check this out from rookie Justin Anderson:

Anderson saw 20 minutes of action, and while the box score doesn’t really show it, made some great plays other than that ridiculous chase-down block.

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His insertion into the rotation has been a big boost defensively, as has the play of fellow rookie Salah Mejri, who blocked three Rocket attempts.

Dallas now turns their attention to the Memphis Grizzlies. For a team with only four games left on the schedule, it sure feels like there’s a long way to go before the postseason begins.

The good news is that the Mavericks have a whole lot of momentum, and if the team can continue to defend well, will be tough to beat.

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