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Harden Leads Houston Over Dallas 113-105

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(credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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HOUSTON (AP) — Dwight Howard doesn’t have any hard feelings toward Dallas owner Mark Cuban for saying he made a mistake in joining the Houston Rockets.

While Howard wasn’t mad, Cuban couldn’t have been happy about Howard’s decision to pick Houston instead of Dallas after watching the Rockets beat the Mavericks 113-105 on Friday night.

James Harden scored 34 points and Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds for Houston.

Cuban addressed Howard’s decision Thursday.

“Obviously, he made a mistake in judgment,” Cuban said. “Do I blame him? No, that’s what young kids do. They make mistakes in judgment.”

Howard said the two talked before the game, but that he was never upset about his comments.

“What would you want him to say? He’s taking up for his team,” Howard said after the game. “I would do the same thing if somebody didn’t want to play with me. I would think they made a bad decision … if I would have went to his team he would have been happy.”

The Mavericks scored eight straight points, with five from Monta Ellis, to get to 91-83 with eight minutes left. But Dallas lost its star and momentum a couple minutes later when Dirk Nowitzki fouled out on Harden’s fast-break layup.

“I guess I’ve just got to get out of the way,” Nowitzki said. “He’s so great at creating contact, so I’ve just got to run to the locker room and let him lay it in.”

Harden made the free throw as Nowitzki angrily took a seat on the bench. Houston made three more layups after Harden’s basket to extend the lead to 16 at 99-83.

Nowitzki had 22 points to lead the Mavericks, and Ellis added 20.

“We didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Nowitzki said. “We weren’t good defensively and we shot 38 percent.”

Harden also had four steals, three assists and four rebounds.

Jeremy Lin added 14 points for Houston. Lin was back in the starting lineup at point guard with Patrick Beverley out 10 days to two weeks with a torn muscle in his midsection.

Nowitzki had scored six straight points for Dallas when he drew his fifth foul by knocking Harden down on a driving layup with 2:18 left in the third quarter. Harden hit the shot as he crashed to the court and into people sitting courtside. Nowitzki went to the bench and Harden made the free throw to leave Houston up 81-70.

The Mavericks got within eight points after back-to-back baskets by Shawn Marion. Houston answered with a 9-4 spurt to push it to 73-60 with about five minutes left in the third quarter. Harden made a long 3 at the end of it and bobbed his head and smiled as he ran down the court.

Houston attempted 51 free throws in part because the Mavericks employed a Hack-a-Howard approach in the third quarter. Howard went to the line 10 times in that quarter alone.

Howard said that defense against him slows the game down for both teams.

“I’ve just got to make them,” he said about the free throws.

Howard missed his first six free throws before finally making one soon after that, causing some of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd. He made his next two attempts before disappointing the fans with another miss.

Houston was up by 13 with about nine minutes left in the first half before using an 11-2 run to extend the lead to 53-31 about four minutes later. The Rockets capped that drive with a 3-point play by Harden followed by a steal by him and a reverse layup by Lin.

Dallas got going after that, outscoring Houston 19-8 the rest of the quarter, to cut the lead to 61-50 at halftime. Ellis scored four points in the last 30 seconds of the half after hitting a layup before making two free throws after a flagrant 1 foul by Francisco Garcia.

Garcia knocked Ellis to the floor on a fast break after a steal by Samuel Dalembert.

The Rockets built a 38-22 lead in the first quarter thanks to 12 points by Harden and eight points by Omri Casspi. But Casspi collected three fouls in the first period and didn’t play in the second quarter.

“We have to play better at the start of the game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Our play in the first quarter put us in such a hole that we could never get back over the hump.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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