The Mavericks, who began the night in seventh place in the Western Conference, opened a 2 1/2-game gap over the ninth spot. The defending NBA champions halted a two-game skid that had put their post-season chances in jeopardy.
If Dallas does reach the playoffs, Houston, Phoenix and Utah will be left to contest the final post-season spot in the West.
Goran Dragic led Houston with 20 points and 10 assists. The Rockets have lost five in a row and squandered a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.