Dallas, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series is as good a time as any to make adjustments to your starting lineup.
J.J. Barea and Al-Farouq Aminu each contributed double-doubles in their first starts of the postseason and Monta Ellis scored 31 points as the Dallas Mavericks held off the Houston Rockets 121-109 to extend their first-round series to a fifth game.
After struggling in the first two games of this series -- both double-digit Rockets wins -- Ellis poured in 34 points with nine assists in Game 3. He had a chance to put that game in overtime, but was off the mark with a jumper from the top of the key at the end of regulation.
"Relentless - non-stop, relentless, next play mentality, [and] good or bad he kept playing, and he kept charging forward like a freight train. And, that's who he is - he's an attacker through and through, and that's what we need him to be," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.
The Mavericks trailed 3-0 in the series but unlike the Raptors and Celtics, who were eliminated from the postseason in 4-0 sweeps on Sunday, will live to fight another day.
Barea posted 17 points and 13 assists and brought life to a Dallas starting lineup that has been without starters Chandler Parsons (knee) and Rajon Rondo (back). His previous three postseason starts were all wins in the 2011 NBA Finals, when he helped the Mavericks take down the Miami Heat.
Aminu added 16 points, including five straight midway through the fourth quarter during a Houston rally that kept the momentum with Dallas, and 12 rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki netted 16 points and Tyson Chandler pulled down a game-high 14 boards.
"Give them credit. They played the way you have to play," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "They didn't want to lose at home and they came out and played like it. They beat us inside and got offensive rebounds."
The series will shift back to Houston for Tuesday's Game 5.
The Mavericks won the second quarter in Game 3 by 13 points and led that game at halftime, but Houston flipped the script in the third on their way to a 130-128 win.
Dallas dominated the second once again on Sunday, this time winning the period by 17 points, but instead of folding out of the break, Ellis and the Mavericks put the game away.
Ellis scored 10 points during the 20-4 flurry to start the second half, including a reverse in transition to cap the run at 4:35 and force a timeout.
That basket pushed the lead to 24. Houston chipped away from there, with Josh Smith leading a fourth-quarter charge that made things interesting.
Smith's personal 8-0 run, which spanned just over a minute from 5:43, had the Rockets within 109-99. His 3-ball with just under four minutes to play made it a nine-point game.
But it was too little, too late for the second-seeded Rockets. Ellis followed two Nowitzki free throws with a short jumper at 1:54, and Houston emptied its bench after that.
James Harden paced Houston with 24 points, while Smith and Corey Brewer gave 23 and 22 off the bench, respectively.
Houston bridged the first and second quarters with a 13-2 run to go in front 37-25. The hosts dominated the rest of the half.
Nowitzki's stepback jumper sparked a quick 6-0 run. Then just before the midpoint of the period, Charlie Villanueva and Aminu nailed 3s on consecutive possessions to get Dallas within two.
Barea's pullup at 3:46 made it 50-48 in Dallas' favor, and the lead grew to eight at halftime when Chandler slammed home Barea's missed layup in the final seconds.
No team has ever won a best-of-seven series in NBA postseason history after trailing 3-0 ... Dallas hasn't advanced past the first round since 2011 ... Houston shot just 2-for-21 from 3-point range through three quarters and finished 7-for-31 ... Dallas won the rebounding margin, 52-38.