As far as the Dallas Mavericks are concerned, the playoffs started Saturday night at the Toyota Center in Houston.

That's why they played with so much passion and with a sense of urgency. That's why they were clawing and scratching and diving for loose balls, which ultimately helped the Mavs edge the Houston Rockets 101-99 in overtime

The victory represented a two-game cushion for the Mavs (28-22) over the Rockets (26-23), who are breathing down their backs in the race for a playoff spot. Coach Rick Carlisle talked to his team before the game about the playoffs (unofficially) starting Saturday for the Mavs, who will host the Rockets on Tuesday.

"He put a huge emphasis on [the playoffs starting] and I think guys really took it to heart," said Jason Terry, who finished with 24 points. "And regardless if we were on a back-to-back, it didn't matter.

"We won Game 1 and now it's time for us to go home and get another one. Our talk before the game is that this game's a playoff game, and the next one, so we treat it like a playoff series and we have to win this series to move on."

Terry also only needed to hear his number called. One of the game's best clutch players, Terry scored eight points in the fourth quarter and scored six of the Mavs' 10 points in overtime to hold off the Rockets.