Mavs down Rockets

Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half to help the Dallas Mavericks down the Houston Rockets, 117-110, in a battle of Western Conference playoff contenders Wednesday.

Vince Carter and Jason Terry provided sparks off the bench, netting 23 and 19 points, respectively, for the Mavericks, who picked up a much-needed victory after back-to-back overtime losses. Dallas moved into a tie with idle Denver for sixth place in the West.

Houston, meanwhile, fell a half-game behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Rockets, now tied with Utah for ninth place, will wait on the results of the Suns' clash with the Thunder and the Jazz's battle against the Trail Blazers later Wednesday.

Seven Rockets finished in double figures, including Goran Dragic with 20 points and 10 assists, but they were outscored 39-26 in the fourth quarter to suffer their fifth consecutive loss.