THE FACTS: The Dallas Mavericks are still breathing in their long-shot quest to squeeze into the playoffs. In pulling out a 109-99 win at the Phoenix Suns Friday night, the Mavericks broke open a game late that was virtually even for three quarters. They won even though Dirk Nowitzki missed his second straight with a right adductor, strain and Chris Kaman missed his third straight with a concussion. Darren Collison had a great all-around game for the Mavericks, shooting 6-for-9 for 19 points, plus six rebounds and six assists. O.J. Mayo had 20 points though he shot just 7-for-19.
For the Suns, Goran Dragic had 19 points, nine asissts and eight rebounds. Shannon Brown had 20 points off the bench while Luis Scola had 18 points and eight boards. The Suns dropped to 3-3 under new coach Lindsey Hunter. Backup center Jermaine O'Neal remains out with an irregular heartbeat. He is improving, though, and could return in a few days.
The Mavericks (20-27) have won all three games vs. the Suns (16-31) this season and have won 11 of their last 12 against them.
QUOTABLE: "It's an important win for us. Everybody did their job."
-- Mavs coach Rick Carlisle
QUOTABLE II: "If we keep pushing, anything is possible. If the buzzer-beaters turn in our favor, who knows?"
-- Shawn Marion on the playoff chances for the Mavericks, who have lost a series of close games late
THE STAT: The Mavericks' bench outscored the Suns' reserves 52-25.
TURNING POINT: The Mavericks, leading 87-85 with 7:00 left, got two free throws from Mayo and a 3-pointer from Jae Crowder to open a 92-85 lead. Then, with less than 4:00 left and the Mavs leading 96-91, they got three shots on one possession. That included an air ball that bounced off a sleepy Marcin Gortat and out of bounds to the Mavs. Mayo then hit a 20-footer to seal it.
QUOTABLE III: "Those were the five or six best minutes he's played since he's been here."
-- Rick Carlisle on Collison handling the Mavs down the home stretch
HOT: Crowder hit 5-for-7 off the bench for the Mavs.
NOT: Michael Beasley shot 2-for-13.
GOOD MOVE: The Mavs' Carlisle used 10 players with only Mayo (37 minutes) playing more than 31 minutes.
BAD MOVE: Hunter had non-scorers Markieff Morris and the seldom-used rookie Kendall Marshall in the game for a combined 23 minutes. They produced one point.
QUOTABLE IV: "I know what lies ahead of us, and I know how hard it is."
-- Lindsey Hunter on the Suns' season
ROOKIE WATCH: Marshall, dusted off to replace the usual backup point guard Sebastian Telfair in this one, shot 0-for-2 for one point with two assists, two rebounds and two turnovers.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Beasley had been a new player since Hunter replaced fired coach Alvin Gentry. He is averaging 18.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 24.4 minutes (He had averaged 6.3 points in his previous 16 games). But Beasley fell flat Friday night. In addition to shooting 2-for-13 for four points, he had three turnovers. "
QUOTABLE V: "He just seemed a step off tonight."
-- LIndsey Hunter said of Beasley
NOTABLE: Since leaving the Suns, Marion said he has lost only one game against them, when he played for Toronto.
UP NEXT: For the Mavericks, Monday @ Oklahoma City, Wednesday vs. Trail Blazers, Saturday vs. Warriors. For the Suns, Saturday @ Golden State, Tuesday @ Memphis, Wednesday @ New Orleans.