Dallas center Andrew Bogut seemed confused about why he had been called for a flagrant foul that helped spur a game-changing 16-0 run by the Rockets in the second quarter.
It goes without saying that both locker rooms had plenty to say even though the Rockets won a lopsided game, 123-107, at American Airlines Center. The teams combined for eight technical fouls and two Flagrant 1s and even saw Houston's Trevor Ariza ejected in the fourth quarter.
It all may have stemmed from a Flagrant 1 called on Bogut in the second quarter, when he tried to lay a hard screen on Harden. The Rockets were on an 11-0 run at that point, and it became a 16-0 run after Bogut's foul.
Harden made both free throws and then drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, a pivotal stretch that Dallas coach Rick Carlisle called "the killer" for his team's chances.
The players were a little more colorful than that.
"I don't know what they was on tonight," Harden said. "That other team was trippin' tonight, just disrespectful, unprofessional -- players and coaches. I don't know what was their problem, but I think that got us going. They wanted to throw a little cheap shot and just woke us up a little bit, and it was over from there."
Bogut didn't feel he warranted a flagrant foul on the play. He didn't get an explanation from the officials, quipping that he'll have to go through his agent and Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson to try to avoid a fine.
"If you watch the replay, yeah, (Harden) made no effort to run around my screen," said Bogut, who had missed the previous 11 games with a bone bruise in his right knee.
"So obviously I turned to protect myself and hit him and he went face-first into my shoulder. Yeah, it was a hard screen and I set hard screens. But to get a flagrant for it is kind of head-scratching when I felt like (Mavs guard) Justin Anderson had his wrist in a ju-jitsu hold four plays later, and that was brushed off like a regular foul."
Bogut then took a subtle shot at the league office.
"You admire the effort the league's putting in in Secaucus (N.J.) with that beautiful facility where they watch replays and watch TV and have leather chairs and all that kind of stuff," Bogut said. "But you scratch your head at a lot of these things and it becomes very, very frustrating."
The competitive juices certainly flowed during and after the game.
But Bogut acknowledged that his flagrant had nothing to do with the outcome, saying the Mavs "got absolutely killed." The Rockets were just too strong for them once again.
The Rockets (24-9) swept all four games against the Mavericks for the first time since the 1997-98 season, and they have won 13 of their last 15.
Harden led the way with 34 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Forward Ryan Anderson finished with 22 points.
But the intensity of the game became the story.
"Obviously it's a competition," Anderson said. "You have guys battling each other, you get hit and you feel like you have to retaliate sometimes. But we held our heads, we got the win, and that's all that matters."
The Mavs (9-23), meanwhile, own the worst winning percentage in the Western Conference at .391. Harrison Barnes led them with 21 points, while Wesley Matthews had 19.
For his part, Matthews wasn't pleased with the number of technical and flagrant fouls on the night.
"I don't know what that was. It wasn't even basketball," Matthews said. "Tempers between two in-state teams that play each other four times. ... We have to be better than that. There was opportunity for us to channel it into basketball, and we didn't do that."
The Mavs showed life early on, rallying from an 18-4 deficit in the first quarter. But they simply couldn't do anything to stop the Rockets during the 16-0 run in the second quarter, going through a five-minute scoring drought.
The Rockets had the game under control from that point on.
"I don't remember every play, but we couldn't stop them and we were having trouble scoring," Carlisle said. "Bad combination."
Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki played 15 minutes in the first half and rested in the second half. Bogut did, too, after returning from his lengthy absence. Bogut had six points, two assists and two steals in 11 scoreless minutes.
NOTES: C Andrew Bogut returned to the Mavericks after missing the previous 11 games with a bone bruise in his right knee. ... Dallas signed PG Pierre Jackson, a Baylor product, and waived G Jonathan Gibson. Jackson made his NBA debut late in the game and scored seven points. ... Rockets PG Patrick Beverley did not play due to a bruised left quadriceps. Corey Brewer got the start. ... Houston will return home for four games. It swept four straight at home Dec. 10-16 (vs. Dallas, Brooklyn, Sacramento and New Orleans).