James Harden deferred to Dwight Howard and his role players when Houston swept two games at home to open a first-round series against Dallas.
But the MVP candidate took over in this victory. Harden scored 42 points, his career high for a playoff game, and Howard had a postseason-best 26 rebounds as the Rockets beat the Mavericks 130-128 on Friday night in Dallas for a 3-0 lead in their first-round series.
"He was a beast," Harden said of Howard.
"Tonight wasn't my night to score. I was OK with that," Howard said, although he did have seven of his 13 points to help Houston hold on in the fourth quarter. "But the one thing that I can always control is the paint and just try to get every rebound."
Monta Ellis had a playoff career-high 34 points for the Mavericks to match Dirk Nowitzki's total.
But Ellis missed a potential tying jumper just before the buzzer.
"It was an up-and-down game, shot-making and playmaking all over the place," said Nowitzki, who scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks rallied from 11 down after leading by 13 in the second. "This ranks up there with the toughest playoffs losses I've had in my long playoff career."
San Antonio 100, L.A. Clippers 73: Kawhi Leonard had a postseason career high 32 points to help the Spurs rout the visiting Clippers and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.
Los Angeles scored a franchise postseason low, and the Clippers' 11 points in the third were their fewest in any quarter this season.
Boris Diaw had 15 points and Danny Green added 11 for San Antonio, which led by as many as 37 points after two tense games in Los Angeles.
Tim Duncan was held to four points, but his production wasn't needed.
Blake Griffin had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers.
Washington 106, Toronto 99: John Wall drew choruses of "M-V-P!" from the crowd by producing 19 points and 15 assists, 37-year-old Paul Pierce hit two key late three-pointers, and the Wizards closed in on a first-round playoff sweep by beating the Raptors for a 3-0 series lead.
Six Wizards scored in double figures, including Marcin Gortat, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds. Pierce's 18 points were highlighted by a three-pointer that capped a 10-2 run with two minutes left, and another with 16.3 seconds to play after Toronto got within three points.
After the second, Pierce turned to the stands with arms aloft, nodded and yelled, "That's why I'm here!"