Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden had 24 points and 11 assists, Terrence Jones and Trevor Ariza did a little bit of everything and the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks 118-108 on Saturday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Harden, who became the first Rockets player to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in a playoff game since Tracy McGrady in 2007, carried Houston for long stretches this season, but it was a balanced effort on Saturday.
"James did a nice job of driving and he got to the line a bunch," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "James is a handful. He's a tough guy to handle."
Jones finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Ariza totaled 12, 11 and six.
Dwight Howard added 11 points and five blocks while battling foul trouble, and Jason Terry made four 3-pointers en route to 16 points for the second-seeded Rockets.
"It's my time of year," said Terry.
Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points on an efficient 10-for-14 shooting and Tyson Chandler had 11 points and 18 rebounds in the loss.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday.
"We're going to have to do a better job of coming up with loose balls, those 50-50 balls," said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle. "That's huge in the playoffs."
Monta Ellis beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter with a 3-pointer and opened the fourth with a jumper, capping a 9-0 run that pulled the Mavericks within five, but they would get no closer.
Corey Brewer scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth, including three 3s in just over three minutes near the midpoint. The last one with 4:54 to play made it 103-93, and the Rockets made 17 free throws in the quarter to put the game away.
The Rockets jumped out to a 9-2 lead 3 1/2 minutes in and dominated the first quarter, shooting 12-for-19 from the floor while holding Dallas to just over 30 percent.
Their 15-point lead late in the first dropped to 32-19 going into the second. Howard split a pair of free throws early in the second but picked up his third foul at 9:56 and spent the rest of the half on the bench.
Dallas took advantage of the gap in the middle, chipping away and taking a brief lead late in the period. Rajon Rondo was the catalyst with 11 points, and it was his reverse layup that gave the Mavericks their first lead since 2-0 at 42-40 with 4:22 left.
Rondo scored five straight to make it 51-48 before an 11-4 run the other way gave Houston a 59-55 lead at halftime.
Howard changed the game when he returned to the lineup after halftime, blocking a Chandler Parsons layup on the first play and scoring on consecutive touches a minute later.
Harden and Terry scored every point during an 11-2 run later in the period that extended Houston's lead to 78-64.
Mavericks forward Charlie Villanueva made his playoff debut. Villanueva, a 10- year vet, had played in 594 regular-season games without a postseason appearance ... Parsons, who spent the first three seasons of his career with Houston, missed the last six games with a knee injury. He briefly left the game late in the second quarter but returned.