Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden and Dwight Howard set playoff career highs on Friday night.
The Houston Rockets needed every bit of their production.
Harden netted 42 points, Howard snatched 26 rebounds and the Rockets edged the Dallas Mavericks 130-128 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.
After Harden found a huge crease along the left wing, he slashed through it and layed the ball in for a three-point play and a 127-123 Houston lead with 56.8 seconds left.
Dirk Nowitzki exhibited a nice use of the pump fake and was fouled on right wing 3-pointer at the other end before sinking all three free throws.
Harden then knocked down a step-back left elbow jumper over Tyson Chandler which bounced in and out, ricocheted off the glass and rattled in to put Houston up 129-126 with 12.9 ticks to play.
"I was reading his feet and he was looking for the drive," Harden said. "I gave him a step-back."
Monta Ellis answered by lofting a high-arching floater high off the glass and over the outstretched arms of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer split a pair of foul shots at the other end with seven ticks on the clock.
Ellis, though, couldn't come through as his jumper from the top of the key over Smith was nowhere close to the rim, bounced off the right side of the backboard.
"We didn't get a great shot on it so that's on me," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
The MVP candidate Harden was 15-of-24 from the floor, knocked down 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and sunk all seven of his free throws. He had connected on just 9-of-28 shots from the field over the first two games of this set.
"They were giving me lanes and letting me be aggressive," Harden said.
Smith scored 18 points and Howard added 13 for the Rockets, who can wrap up the series Sunday night in Dallas.
Eleven of Howard's rebounds came on the offensive glass and helped Houston rack up a 28-15 edge in second-chance points.
"I just tried getting all the rebounds," Howard said. "The one thing I can always control is the paint."
Nowitzki and Ellis each poured in 34 points for Dallas, which played without Rajon Rondo after he sustained a back injury in Game 2.
Carlisle announced Wednesday that he didn't think Rondo would play for Dallas again. This came after Rondo didn't play nearly the entire second half of Game 2.
The early stages of the fourth quarter was a deja vu of Game 2, with Houston beginning the frame on an 11-2 run. Brewer's runner staked the Rockets to a 112-101 advantage.
Unlike Game 2, however, Dallas didn't go away.
The Mavs later went on an 11-2 surge to get within a point. Ellis started it with a three-point play, Nowitzki nailed a trey and then finished off the swing moments later with two free throws to claw Dallas within 124-123 with 1:13 to go.
Earlier, Harden hit all four of his shot attempts and scored 10 quick points to help Houston race out to a 27-15 margin past the midway point of the opening stanza.
A 13-3 flurry later in the period got Dallas within 37-36 and the Rockets were up 42-36 following a quarter of play. Houston shot 64 percent (16-of-25) in the first 12 minutes.
Ellis closed a 13-0 Dallas run in the second with a triple to help it build a 59-49 cushion at the 4:40 mark and the Mavs took a 72-65 spread into the locker room.
Harden scored 11 of Houston's first 13 points of the third as it took a 77-76 edge before heading into the fourth with a 101-99 lead.
Howard's 26 rebounds tied a Rockets playoff franchise high ... Harden's previous career high was 37 against the Portland Trail Blazers last season ... Raymond Felton got the start at point guard for Dallas ... Houston was 13- of-24 from beyond the arc.