DALLAS — J.J. Barea last started a playoff game when he helped boost Dallas’ run to a championship four years ago. Al-Farouq Aminu had never been on the floor for the opening tip in a postseason game.
They helped give the Mavericks at least one more game in a first-round series with Houston.
Barea and Aminu recorded their first career postseason double-doubles to go with 31 points from Monta Ellis, and Dallas avoided elimination with a 121-109 victory over the Rockets on Sunday night.
“We weren’t ready to go home,” Ellis said after the Mavericks cut Houston’s series lead to 3-1. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.
Barea had 17 points and 13 assists, while Aminu finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 14 boards as Dallas outrebounded Houston 52-38 after offensive rebounding was a key for the Rockets in a Game 3 win that put them on the verge of their first playoff series victory since 2009.
James Harden scored 24 points, and Dwight Howard had 13 for Houston. But the big man was kept under control after scoring 10 points with two more alley-oop dunks in the first quarter. He had seven rebounds after getting a playoff career-high 26 in Game 3.
The Rockets missed 17 consecutive shots covering the second and third quarters. The most-prolific 3-point shooting team in NBA history in the regular season was 7 of 31 from long range.
“We’re very upset about the way we handled ourselves tonight,” Howard said. “It’s not becoming of a championship team. It starts with myself and James. We’ve got to do a better job from the beginning of the game to the end of the game of leading our team.”
Barea was one of coach Rick Carlisle’s starting guards in the postseason for the first time since Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals. He started the last three games of that series against Miami, all Dallas wins on the way to the title.
Generously listed at 6-foot, Barea, who spent the past three seasons in Minnesota, energized a Dallas offense that never was right after the failed trade for Rajon Rondo. He helped Dallas avoid just the second sweep in 14 trips to the playoffs with Dirk Nowitzki, who had 10 of his 16 points to help the Mavericks keep a safe distance in the fourth quarter.
Barea led a 24-7 run in the first half after the Rockets had gone up 12. Another 20-2 run with him running the offense in the third quarter was capped by his 3-pointer and a spinning layup by Ellis that gave Dallas its biggest lead at 81-57.
“We’re going to fight,” Barea said. “We’re not going to quit. We’ve got to go to Houston, and we’ve got to bring it back to Dallas.”
The Rockets were 2 of 21 from long range going into the fourth, when they made five of their first six shots. Josh Smith, who scored 23 points, had four of them. But Houston never got closer than nine.
Howard, who paired with Smith for five alley-oop dunks in a key fourth-quarter run of Houston’s Game 2 win, looked as if he was going to do it again.
One of his alley-oops was a spectacular running, one-handed slam that got a big roar from pockets of red-clad fans scattered among the Dallas fans in blue playoff T-shirts that were waiting on their seats.
But Howard had just one point in the second quarter and was 1 of 6 from the line. Two of the misses came after Devin Harris was called for a flagrant foul when he wrapped his arms around the 6-11 center and threw him to the ground as Howard tried to go up for a shot.
Howard finished 3 of 13 from the line and wasn’t much of a factor after Harris’ hard foul.
“It’s a big play,” Carlisle said. “When you’re at home, you’ve got to keep the energy up, you’ve got to keep the aggression up and you’ve got to do it in a way that’s clean. It was a hard foul. There was no intent to hurt anybody.”
The Rockets shot 68 percent in the first quarter, but just 28 percent (11 of 40) in the second and third combined. The Mavericks outscored Houston 69-41 in those two quarters.
INSIDE AND OUT
Besides a spirited effort around the basket, Aminu was Dallas’ leading 3-pointer shooter, making three of five. “All year long, I’ve been working on it,” he said.
Rockets: Smith was called for a technical for his reaction after getting intentionally fouled by Harris in the third quarter, and Howard and Chandler were assessed double-technical in the fourth — the fourth and fifth of the game. … Corey Brewer had 22 points.
Mavericks: Aminu started in place of Richard Jefferson, who is battling a calf injury but played. Jefferson had been starting for Chandler Parsons, out for the playoffs and awaiting right knee surgery. … Carlisle, who was fined $25,000 for comments about officiating after a Game 3 loss, was called for a technical foul complaining about a foul against Nowitzki.