Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Rockets turned a nip-and-tuck affair through three quarters into a rout after exploding during the first half of the fourth.
And that was with MVP candidate James Harden on the bench.
Josh Smith came alive in the second half, posting 13 points, nine assists and six rebounds after the break to lead the Rockets to a 111-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
"Kept making plays," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Smith.
That he did, especially in the final frame.
Smith, who tallied just two points on 1-of-5 shooting during a woeful opening 24 minutes, recorded six assists during Houston's game-changing 19-4 run in the fourth. Three of those helpers were alley-oops to his former high school teammate Dwight Howard.
"Josh and Dwight were being big in the middle," McHale said.
The surge turned an 84-81 deficit into a 100-88 lead with 5:39 left.
Houston was never threatened again.
Howard had 28 points and 12 rebounds and Harden finished with 24 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Rockets, who won Game 1 by a 118-108 score on Saturday night.
Game 3 is set for Friday night in Dallas.
Monta Ellis supplied 24 points, while Dirk Nowitzki provided 10 points and 13 boards, but was just 3-of-14 from the floor for the Mavericks.
Rajon Rondo dealt with foul trouble and played less than 10 minutes. He didn't return to the game after picking up his fourth personal with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"I liked the way the other guys were playing, so I elected not to put him back in," Carlisle said.
Rondo refused to comment postgame, ignoring questions and walking out of the locker room with his headphones on.
Dallas played without Chandler Parsons due to a right knee injury. He played in Game 1 after missing the final six games of the regular season.
Houston scored the first seven points of the game, but Dallas responded with the next six and led 24-23 following a quarter of play.
Neither team led by more than four in the second as Houston took a 53-51 margin into the locker room.
Smith capped an 8-2 spurt during the middle stages of the third with a layup to help the Rockets build a 73-66 cushion.
Dallas, though, closed the frame on an 8-3 sprint, with Ellis' deep pull-up 3- pointer at the horn clawing it within 81-80.
The Mavs then scored the first four points of the fourth, with jumpers from Ellis and Amar'e Stoudemire staking them to an 84-81 edge.
Houston took over from there.
Smith and Howard connected on six lobs during the game in all ... The Rockets haven't held a 2-0 lead in a series since 2007 ... Houston held a 60-48 points in the paint advantage ... Dallas was 27-of-28 from the foul line ... Corey Brewer netted 15 points for Houston.