Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (5) drives as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
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J.J. Barea scored 27 points and Dirk Nowitzki delivered a key defensive stop Wednesday as the Dallas Mavericks held off the Houston Rockets 88-86 in a crucial NBA Western Conference clash.It was a vital victory, with the Mavericks and Rockets locked in a three-team battle with the Utah Jazz (39-39) for the final two playoff berths in the West.The Rockets have the most work to do, having lost six of their last nine games to fall to ninth place.Longtime Mavs superstar Nowitzki came up big on the defensive end when it mattered, stripping James Harden as the Rockets' star drove to the basket in the final seconds with Dallas up by one point.The Pacers remained in seventh place in the East, one half-game ahead of the Detroit Pistons, who beat the Magic 108-104 in Orlando.
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