By Dave McMenamin
SCOREBOARD: March 23, 2006 | AROUND THE ASSOCIATION ARCHIVE
PLAY OF THE DAY
J-Rich lets it go before the backboard lights up to win it:
Video: NBA TV Top 10

Karl Malone's jersey was retired by the Jazz, but the Wizards won in Utah.
Kent Horner/NBAE/Getty Images
NBA Photo Exhibit: March 23, 2006

SHOOTING STUDS
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
122-121 loss vs. Warriors
51 pts, 16-24 FG,
3-4 3-pt FG, 16-17 FT

Jason Richardson, Warriors
122-121 win vs. Mavericks
40 pts, 14-23 FG, 5-10 3-pt FG, 7-8 FT

Carlos Boozer, Jazz
109-97 loss vs. Wizards
30 pts, 12-16 FG, 6-7 FT

SHOOTING DUDS
Mehmet Okur, Jazz
109-97 loss vs. Wizards
2-13 FG, 1-5 3-pt FG, 7 pts

Bobby Jackson, Grizzlies
95-85 win vs. Clippers
1-10 FG, 1-4 3-pt FG, 3 pts

Kirk Snyder, Hornets
93-92 loss vs. Rockets
3-16 FG, 1-6 3-pt FG, 9 pts

STAT SHEET STUFFER
Andrei Kirilenko should be paying rent, because he practically lives in the Stat Sheet Stuffer box. AK-47 was up to his usual exploits in Utah's 109-97 home loss against Washington. Kirilenko scored 21 points, hitting a 3-pointer in the process, and filled out his line with eight rebounds, six assists and a block on the same night the Jazz retired Karl Malone's jersey. If Kirilenko keeps having games like he did tonight, it won't be a stretch to see his No. 47 next to Malone's No. 32 up in the rafters some day.

RICK KAMLA'S FANTASY TAKE
"That Mavs-Warriors game rocked reality, what with Jason Richardson pulling off perhaps the shot of the year. But it rocked fantasy leagues as well, with Dirk exploding for 51 points, J-Rich reaching 40 with his whirling-dervish three, and Derek Fisher coming up as the hidden gem with six steals. Best of all, the game was brought to the basketball world by NBA TV."

D-LEAGUE STAR OF THE NIGHT
Marcus Fizer is averaging 40 points in his two games back in the D-League after playing a 10-day contract with the Seattle Sonics. The talented big man followed up 44 points on Tuesday with 36 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, three assists and a steal to take his Toros to a 116-101 home win over Fayetteville on Thursday.

SIXTH MAN OF THE NIGHT
When a team scores 125 points its going to have some bench scoring boosting that total. In Phoenix's 125-108 home win over the Blazers, Tim Thomas scored 15 of the Suns' 53 bench points. Thomas shot 4-for-6 from the field, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers and swiped nine rebounds in 22 minutes of quality production.
GAME OF THE NIGHT
I love this game. It's the NBA's slogan and the only thing that could run through your head after watching the Mavericks and Warriors square off in Dallas on Thursday. The Mavs trailed Golden State by seven at the start of the fourth quarter before Dirk Nowitzki really started to pour it on. Dirk scored 15 of his season-high 51 points in the final frame as Dallas turned the deficit into a 116-110 lead with 35 seconds remaining. Derek Fisher hit a jumper and Golden State fouled Nowitzki, who split a pair of free throws with 28.4 seconds remaining. Now down by five, the Warriors went to Troy Murphy who scored an and-one layup with 18 seconds left to cut it to two. Both teams got on the free-throw see-saw, and with the Warriors hitting 4-for-4 and the Mavericks missing 2-of-6, the door was opened for Jason Richardson to rebound a Jason Terry errant freebie with 3.9 seconds left and his team down 121-119. J-Rich pushed the ball up the court, pulled off a nasty spin move to elude a defender and launched the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired, giving himself 40 points for the game and the Warriors a 122-121 victory. The loss marks the first time all season that the Mavericks fell when Dirk scored 30 or more points -- they were 11-0.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"It is too early to be talking about the playoffs. When do you pay attention to the playoffs? You pay attention when there is an asterisk by your name that says you have clinched a playoff spot. There is no guarantee in this league. Nothing is concrete until your name is on the paper with an asterisk on it."

-- Memphis coach Mike Fratello, who curbed his enthusiam after his Grizzlies pulled to within a half game of the Clippers by beating them 95-85 at home thanks to 21 points and 14 rebounds from Mike Miller. Somebody give the man an *.

STORYLINES OF THE NIGHT
1. Welcome Back STAT
Amaré Stoudemire returned to the lineup after missing the Suns' first 66 games following microfracture surgery on his left knee in October and it was as if he never left. The fourth-year big man scored Phoenix's first basket of the night, and nine points in the first five minutes, to ignite the Suns to a 40-point first quarter. Six other Phoenix players scored in double-digits, led by Shawn Marion's 20 points and seven rebounds. Stoudemire, who goes by the nickname STAT (Stand Tall And Talented), finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes of work as the Suns were hotter than the Blazers, winning 125-108 in front of their home crowd. "I wanted to play some more," Stoudemire said. "The trainers have done such a great job these past five months to where I go off their word. If they say 20 minutes, then that is what it's going to be and I will have to abide by that. But I did feel really good out there." Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni summed up his star's return as well. "He has a big heart and loves to play," D'Antoni said. "He is playing for all the right reasons and it was pretty impressive the first time out. He had good rhythm with the rest of the team."

2. 33-Year-Old Kidd
Jason Kidd turned 33 on Thursday and the Nets turned a 10-point halftime deficit into an 86-82 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Kidd had 17 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two steals. Add all those numbers up and you get a total of 34 -- appropriate if you consider birthday punches; you always get one more for good luck. Vince Carter (21 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three blocks) hit a 30-footer at the end of the first half that seemed to wake the Nets up. "In the second half, we were a totally different team," Kidd said. "We found some energy on defense and that helped us win the game." The victory is New Jersey's seventh straight, boosting the team's overall record to 38-29 and giving the Nets a commanding seven-game lead in the Atlantic Division over the 32-35 Sixers with 15 games left to play.

3. Four Wizards, 3-Pointers
Washington is used to seeing Gilbert Arenas shooting from the arc, he is third in the NBA in three-point field goal attempts, but on Thursday it wasn't just G.A. splashing shots from deep. Antawn Jamison hit a career-high 7-of-12 from downtown, Caron Butler was 2-for-3, and Antonio Daniels hit 1-of-1 in the Wizards' 109-97 win in Utah. Add in Arenas' 6-of-8 trifecta turnout and you get a franchise-record 16 threes made by Washington, as it shot 16-for-25 as a team (64 percent). The win moves the Wizards a half game ahead of the Pacers for fifth in the East. "We're stunned, too," Arenas said of the Wizards' record-setting night. "We were just hot tonight."

ROOKIE WATCH
Jarrett Jack is one of five guards on Portland's roster that has three years of experience or less in the league. The 6-foot-3 former Geogia Tech Yellowjacket has to be trying to do whatever he can to separate himself from the rest of his young competition. Maybe he chose No. 1 for his jersey to represent his desired placement on coach Nate McMillan's depth chart. On Thursday, Jack scored a season-high 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting and notched four rebounds and four assists to boot in Portland's 125-108 road loss to the Suns. If he has more nights like this it won't matter if he wears No. 99, he'll be seeing more court time.

COOL/CLUTCH PERFORMANCE
The Rockets were winless in the Southwest Division this year (0-13), and as they faced a nine-point halftime deficit on the road against the Hornets, the streak seemed likely to stay in tact. But Rafer Alston came out of intermission and solved Houston's division problems as he scored seven points and sparked his team to a 26-10 third quarter. The Rockets rode the momentum into the fourth and Alston kept shooting, pouring in 11 more points in the fourth, including consecutive jumpers late in the quarter to quell a Hornets run. "Skip to My Lou" ended up scoring 18 of his 22 in Houston's second-half stretch run and the Rockets held on to a 93-92 victory in Oklahoma City. "I was in a comfort zone," Alston said. "The team kept swinging the ball to me. Shot clock is running down, there is only one thing to do, and that's hit it."