Luka Doncic, Mavericks overtake Rockets

Luka Doncic flirted with a 40-point triple-double while Kyrie Irving scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half as the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 121-115 home win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday in the group play finale of the NBA in-season tournament.

Doncic posted 41 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. His layup at the 8:43 mark of the fourth quarter knotted the score at 92-92 and erased what had been a nine-point lead for the Rockets. Doncic added a desperation running hook shot with 1:03 left that gave Dallas a 115-108 lead.

Irving scored off Doncic’s assist with 6:25 left before feeding Dereck Lively II for an alley-oop dunk that lifted Dallas to a 103-98 lead. After two free throws by Irving, Derrick Jones Jr., who scored 12 points in the fourth, sealed it with a breakaway dunk with 6.1 seconds to play.

Alperen Sengun recorded 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Jabari Smith Jr. and Dillon Brooks scored 16 points apiece for the Rockets, who would have clinched a spot in the tournament quarterfinals with a win. Instead, Houston remained winless on the road.

Irving kept the Mavericks afloat down the stretch of the third quarter, scoring the final nine points. The Rockets seized their first lead since early in the first quarter when Smith and Jalen Green drilled 3-pointers, the latter supplying Houston with a 58-56 advantage.

Despite Doncic tallying 11 points in the third, the Rockets extended to an 84-75 lead after a pair of 3-pointers from reserve guard Aaron Holiday. That’s when Irving took control, first with a pair of free throws before finally capping his individual run with a three-point play at the 12-second mark that narrowed the deficit to 88-84 entering the final period.

Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed three 3-pointers in the first period to pace the Mavericks to a double-digit lead. But the Rockets responded with the first of their series of rallies, using a 7-0 burst to slice the margin to 29-22 entering the second quarter.

Doncic keyed another surge to a double-digit advantage with 11 points in the second, including a 3 that yielded a 50-39 lead.

But the Rockets closed the half with an 11-4 push and, despite shooting just 2 for 11 from behind the arc while the Mavericks sank nine 3-pointers, Houston faced a 54-50 halftime deficit.