DALLAS, May 24 (Ticker) --
The Dallas Mavericks must be wondering how
long they have to pay for allowing Steve Nash
to leave for the
Nash piloted a late comeback capped by Boris Diaw
's basket with
0.5 seconds left that gave the Suns a thrilling 121-118 victory
over the Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
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Diaw scored a career-high 34 points and Nash added 27 and 16
assists for the second-seeded Suns, who looked tired at times
but relied on their resiliency and won a road game for the third
"We feel like we've overcome a lot of adversity this year to be
where we are and we want to see how good we can get," Nash said.
"Every time we hear something about us, it's yeah, we are
underrated," Diaw said. "We'll take the games one by one and
see what's going to happen."
It was a disappointing and virtually inexcusable loss by the
fourth-seeded Mavericks, who led by nine points with less than
four minutes to play against the defenseless Suns but could not
close it out.
"We didn't execute down the stretch," Mavericks guard Jason Terry
said. "We had a nine-point lead with three-something
left. A couple of turnovers, a couple of blown defensive
assignments, execution on both ends of the floor, all
correctable errors. It's disappointing we let one slip away.
The series opener was a continuation of the nail-biters that
have pervaded the postseason. It was Phoenix's fifth game
decided by less than three points or in overtime. Dallas has
played six such games.
"Another normal night in the NBA," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
Nash played five seasons in Dallas and was a fan favorite before
leaving for Phoenix as a free agent in the summer of 2004. He
has won a pair of MVP awards in two seasons with the Suns and
victimized the Mavericks in last year's conference semifinals.
A driving three-point play by Devin Harris
, who scored a
career-high 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting, gave the Mavericks a
114-105 lead with 3:43 to go. But Dallas stumbled, and the NBA
Nash scored Phoenix's next 10 points, making two free throws and
a 3-pointer before going underneath good buddy Dirk Nowitzki
for a difficult layup and over him for a 3-pointer that cut the
deficit to 116-115 with 1:04 remaining.
"For much of the game, my teammates were playing great and
making shots," Nash said. "I was trying to facilitate their
games. The later it got in the game, I didn't want to pass up
shots, especially with our having fallen behind."
On Phoenix's next possession, Nash ran a pick-and-roll with
, who dunked for the lead with 43 seconds left. The
teams traded empty possessions before Harris made a 17-footer
from the right wing, giving the Mavericks a 118-117 lead with
4.8 seconds to play.
After a timeout, Tim Thomas
inbounded to Diaw, who had missed
badly on the previous possession. He got deep position on Jerry Stackhouse
and made a turnaround 10-footer from the right
baseline, silencing the sellout crowd at the American Airlines
"That wasn't a play for me," Diaw said. "From the start of the
play, I was more of the second option. We ran a play we've run
two or three times during the year for Steve. Dallas saw the
play and I think they knew what we were going to do. I had the
ball, so I had to take the shot."
In the final second, Marquis Daniels
threw away the inbounds
pass and Thomas sealed it with two free throws. Dallas had four
turnovers in the final 77 seconds.
"The last couple of minutes, everything that could go wrong, did
go wrong," Nowitzki said. "We couldn't get a stop. Nash made a
couple of big shots. Diaw makes the tough turnaround and on
the offensive end, our execution was horrible. We didn't even
get a shot off until all the way at the end when Devin made the shot
to get up a point, but it just wasn't what we were looking for.
It's a disappointing loss and a tough way to start a series at
Marion sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter but had 24
points and 13 rebounds and Thomas scored 17 points for the Suns,
who shot 55 percent (47-of-85) from the field.
Nowitzki had 25 points and 19 rebounds and Stackhouse scored 16
points for the Mavericks, who shot 51 percent (47-of-93) and
held a 48-38 advantage on the glass.
"Tonight we weren't very good," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson
said. "Even though we had the lead, we couldn't execute. We
were just bad tonight in a lot of different areas that we have
to improve on in a hurry. Defensively, Nash - too easy. Diaw -
too easy. I know they're really good players, but we've just
got to play better defense."
Both teams lost key players to injuries. Mavericks forward Josh Howard
suffered a sprained right ankle midway through the first
quarter and did not return. Suns guard Raja Bell
left calf strain midway through the final period and was carried
off the court.
"I thought someone threw something from the stands," Bell said.
"But then it started to burn and right now it's pretty sore."
Perhaps now the Mavericks know how the San Antonio Spurs felt.
After using their advantage in speed to dethrone the champions,
Dallas had a hard time keeping up with Phoenix, the fastest team
in the league.
As expected, the Suns came out sprinting, running their fast
break even after a make by the Mavs and taking a 62-58 lead.
Nash was the trigger in the first quarter with five assists,
then had a handful of nifty layups in the second period, when he
scored 12 points.
"It took us a little bit at the begining to adjust from the pace
of the last series to this series," Nowitzki said. "They had a
couple of leakouts early and just had layups on us, but I think
that when that first quarter was out of the way, I think we were
Harris, who disappeared at the end of the conference semifinals,
re-emerged in the third quarter and gave the Mavericks the
energy boost they needed. He scored 13 points, including
several driving layups through Phoenix's porous defense.
"He was great," Nash said. "For stretches he kept them in it.
He was terrific from the perimeter and he got to the basket. He
had a great game."
A three-point play by Daniels capped a 13-0 spurt that gave
Dallas a 100-91 lead early in the fourth quarter.