NBA: Harden leads Rockets past Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) jump for the ball.
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) jump for the ball.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

(REUTERS) - Guard James Harden scored 25 points, including a step-back jumper with 7.4 seconds to go, to lead the Houston Rockets to a 100-96 win against the Dallas Mavericks in their National Basketball Association game.

He bounced back from a 3-for-12 shooting first-half with 11 points in the third quarter, plus two huge baskets and a terrific assist in crunch time.

He finished with nine assists and eight rebounds in a game that Houston played without centre Dwight Howard.

"I'm just a playmaker, my man," Harden said of his final basket that sealed the victory. "If I have the shot, shoot it. If I have the opportunity to pass it and make a good play, I will do that as well."

Dallas guard Deron Williams led the Mavs with 22 points and six assists while forward Dirk Nowitzki had 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, but he also headed to the locker room with a left ankle issue with 11:17 to go.

Nowitzki made it back to the bench with a little more than eight minutes left and the game tied 84-84.

He immediately put on his sweat pants and top, but did re-enter the game with 6:30 to go.

The German's go-ahead three-point attempt with 1:24 to go missed, but he then tied the game at 96-96 with a pair of free throws with 1:10 left.

With 55 seconds to go, Harden found Jones all alone under the basket thanks to a defensive miscue by Mavs forward Chandler Parsons for an easy dunk and a 98-96 lead.

Nowitzki missed a difficult jumper from the top of the key to tie with 32 seconds left. Harden grabbed the rebound and with 7.4 seconds remaining drained a step-back jumper over Mavs guard Wesley Matthews, who could not have defended Harden any better.

"The defence was great," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "The shot was spectacular, and a little lucky to get the bounce. Wes played it great.

"It was just a little bit better shot, that's all."