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Dallas started the third quarter 2-for-8, but the Rockets missed their first seven shots and quickly trailed by 10. McGrady missed his first three attempts and limped away after a shot from the top of the key bounced off the rim. McGrady has been dealing with a sore left knee and was wearing a wrap on it, as he has all season.
Alston ended Houston's field-goal drought with a drive with 6:13 left in the third quarter to cut the Mavs' lead to 59-52. With no Yao to block him, Nowitzki answered with two turnaround jumpers over Luis Scola to restore the Mavs' 11-point cushion.
Dallas led 72-61 after Houston had its worst shooting quarter of the season, going 2-for-17 from the field. The Rockets were only reasonably close because they went 11-for-14 from the free-throw line.
Notes: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Howard was "day to day." The Mavericks play Memphis on Friday night. ... Yao underwent tests on his foot on Tuesday and Wednesday that revealed no structural damage. "It's nothing bad," said Yao, averaging 17 points. "I'm all right, actually. I'll maybe take a few days, maybe one day." ... Artest played with a sprained right ankle.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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