Houston, Texas: O.J. Mayo scored 16 of his game-high 40 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday to help Dallas rally for a 116-109 NBA victory over the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets welcomed head coach Kevin McHale back to the sideline for the first time since he took a leave of absence on November 10.
McHale’s 23-year-old daughter Alexandra “Sasha” McHale, who had battled Lupus, died on November 24.
Before the game, McHale met briefly with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, once his teammate in Boston and still a friend.
“I can’t imagine the emotions he’s gone through in the last month,” Carlisle said. “All of us that know him have been thinking about him and his family and praying for them a lot over the last several weeks.
“This represents him stepping back into the fray here, and it’s an important deal.”
McHale said he felt ready to return.
“It’s been, needless to say, a terrible month. But it just felt like the time to come back and go to work and be around the guys,” he said.
The Rockets, trying hard to give McHale a victory in his first game back, had 39 points from James Harden and 18 points and 10 rebounds from Chandler Parsons.
But the Rockets could not hang onto a fourth-quarter lead and lost for the third time in five games.
“We’ve got to get more emotion and more thrust in our offence, especially down the stretch,” McHale said. “We have to play with more pace in the fourth quarter.”
Mayo drained six three-pointers and pulled down eight rebounds, while Chris Kaman added 20 points and seven rebounds for Dallas.
“I was just focused on time and scoring,” Mayo said. “Trying to get to .500 was very important for us and we got there and we have keep continuing to build off of that.”
Darren Collison and Vince Carter contributed 12 points each in the victory, which saw the Mavs improve to 10-10.
The Mavericks were again without Dirk Nowitzki, who is still battling to get his right knee back in playing condition.
Nowitzki said this week he was not sure when he would return as he worked to regain the strength in his quadriceps muscle that he lost when swelling in the knee prevented him from training.
The All-Star forward had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October.
He had hoped to return in mid-December. That now seems unlikely, although Nowitzki said he was encouraged by how his knee is holding up to more intense training.
In the meantime, the Mavericks have Mayo. “Unbelievable performance,” Carlisle said of Mayo. “What he’s showing over the first 20 games is that he can carry a team at times. He was really impressive. He’s real hungry to win.”