Chandler Parsons is emerging into a key role midway through the season after a long road back from injury, but Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is calling on his entire team to turn in more complete performances.
The forward will try to continue doing his part Sunday against his former team in Houston as the Rockets try to work their own recently returned forward into the mix.
The Mavericks (25-20) got 26 points from Parsons in Friday's 109-106 home loss to Oklahoma City, and he's averaged 24.0 while shooting 57.4 percent and hitting 11 of 18 from 3-point range over his last three games.
Parsons has played in 37 games this season with the occasional day off while working his way back from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee, and the first 34 came with the 27-year-old averaging 9.6 points and shooting 45.7 percent.
"Just trying to string a couple together," Parsons told the team's official website. "You know, it wasn't enough tonight, but it felt great. My knee felt great, and I'm shooting the ball at a very high level of confidence right now.
"From that point, it's a positive. But I still forced some bad ones and missed some ones that I should make right now. It's just tough to play that hard, fight, give ourselves a chance and come up a little short."
It was an overall improvement for the Mavs, who hit 46.0 percent following a 3-2 span in which they were limited to 40.2, but Carlisle still found plenty to criticize.
"We missed too many 50-50 balls," he said. "We got killed on the boards. It's not all about scoring. There are just too many other things that went wrong. The third quarter was a debacle. That was very poorly played by us and really well played by them. That doomed us."
That disadvantage is nothing new for Dallas, which has lost the battle on the boards by an average of 6.1 over a 3-4 span, including a minus-4.9 mark on the offensive glass.
The Mavs are beginning a three-game trip as Houston (23-22) concludes a three-game homestand. The teams have split two meetings this season with the Mavericks winning the first in Houston 110-98 on Nov. 14.
The Rockets are coming off a 102-98 win over Milwaukee on Friday in which they welcomed back Josh Smith, who played in Houston for the second half of last season before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was traded back to the Rockets earlier in the day and debuted immediately, though he had just two points on 1-of-10 shooting.
It was his first game under interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who's looking beyond Smith's finishing in terms of carving out his role.
"The thing that's important for us is Josh's ability to pass the ball," Bickerstaff said. "It's infectious when he makes the extra passes over and over again and everybody's a recipient of it."
James Harden scored 30 points and continued to impress from beyond the arc. The league's No. 2 scorer has averaged 28.5 points over his last four games while connecting on 14 of 29 from 3-point range, though he's been held to 34.1 percent overall and 2 of 12 from outside against Dallas this season.
Fellow guard Patrick Beverley has missed two straight games with a sprained left ankle, though he said he expects to face the Mavericks.
Dwight Howard is expected to remain out after sitting out Friday with his own left ankle injury.