DALLAS, March 5 (Ticker) --
The Dallas Mavericks are making a bad habit of blowing big leads against bad teams.
had 30 points and 20 rebounds and Michael Finley
added 24 and nine as the Mavericks survived a furious rally by the Phoenix Suns en route to an 81-77 victory.
Dallas is one game behind the Sacramento Kings for the best record in the league but survived its second scare in three days. The Mavericks squandered a 15-point lead before winning in overtime at Denver on Sunday and Tuesday blew a 16-point cushion in the fourth quarter against the Suns.
"We always find a way to let the other team stick around and find a way to get back into the game," Nowitzki said. "It's
just terrible. We should have a lot of guys getting a lot of rest. We kept it close but we've got to do a better job playing
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Nowitzki posted a 30-20 for the second time in the past six games.
Phoenix had a 54-53 lead with 4:45 left in the third quarter before Dallas used a 25-6 run to seize control. Finley scored
six points during the burst and started it with a pair of free throws to give the Mavs the lead for good, 55-54, with 4:39
left in the third.
Nowitzki added five points during the stretch and his jumper with 8:16 remaining was Dallas' last basket. He sank a free
throw to complete a three-point play and Finley made 1-of-2 free throws to complete the run and give the Mavs a 78-62
cushion with 7:28 to play.
responded with a three-point play to spark a 15-2 spurt for the Suns. Tom Gugliotta
scored four of his 10 points during the stretch and buried a jumper form the top of the key to bring Phoenix within 80-77 with 41 seconds left.
"We knew (Dallas) would let us back into the game if we stuck with it, and we had an opportunity," Gugliotta said. "But to
be down 12 with four or five minutes to go makes it tough to win."
"I was surprised when we gave the lead away," Nelson said. "They made a couple of poor plays and missed some shots. But before you know it they're right back in it. The bottom line is that we won the game we were supposed to win and we did it the hard way."
Finley missed a jumper with 17 seconds to go and Phoenix had a chance to tie, but Stephon Marbury
missed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle with 11 seconds remaining.
"We wanted him to basically drive," Phoenix coach Frank Johnson said. "Maybe he could get us a three-point play. But he settled for a shot he thought he could make."
Nowitzki sank 1-of-2 free throws with nine seconds left to seal Dallas' fourth win in five games.
collected 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Mavericks, who shot just 37 percent (30-of-81) and were held 20 points below their season average.
scored 15 points and Shawn Marion
had 13 and a season-high 18 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost four of their last five road games.
Marbury recorded 13 points on 6-of-21 shooting as Phoenix shot just 36 percent (30-of-84), including 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
"I couldn't buy a basket," Marbury said. "I couldn't shoot the ball into the ocean if I wanted to."