DALLAS, May 26 (Ticker) -- This time, Dirk Nowitzki turned good buddy Steve Nash into a spectator.

Nowitzki scored 12 of his 30 points in the final 10 minutes as the Mavericks rallied for a 105-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns that evened the Western Conference finals at one game apiece.

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Josh Howard ignored an ankle injury to score a playoff career-high 29 points and 7-footer DeSagana Diop was a factor for the fourth-seeded Mavericks, who were the team with the late surge this time as they salvaged their season.

In Game 1 Nowitzki had 25 points and 19 rebounds but was uncharacteristically quiet in the fourth quarter, when Dallas squandered a nine-point lead in the final 3 1/2 minutes. Leading Phoenix's comeback was Nash, the two-time MVP who scored 10 points in a two-minute span as he looked for his offense.

The long-time friends reversed roles in the final period Friday. Nowitzki, who also pulled down 14 rebounds, was very aggressive as he fueled a 30-point fourth quarter.

"I really wanted to make some stuff happen, going to the basket some and not just settling for jumpers," said Nowitzki, who made 12-of-21 shots. "I was just attacking the rim. They don't really have a lot of shot-blockers out there, so I thought I'd maybe to get to the line some and it was decent."

"I think he's going to play a similar game to this in most games in the series," Nash said. "We've got to get better and tweak what we do. That's how we're going to win games."

Nash did not take a shot in the second half until making an uncontested layup in the waning seconds. He had just two points and three assists after halftime.

"In hindsight, I would have maybe tried to be a little more aggressive, but I kept feeling like I was making the right play," Nash said. "I was drawing two guys and passing to the open man, and you know that's the type of player I am. I try to make the right play and then when the right time comes you want to be really aggressive."

"We tried to get the ball out of his hands a little bit more than we did in Game 1," Nowitzki said. "But he still had some. He still had some opportunities where he's right there and made him pass the ball. But his teammates kept making shots."

A 3-pointer by Shawn Marion gave second-seeded Phoenix an 82-78 lead with 10:45 remaining before Nowitzki responded with a pair of short jumpers to trigger a 12-2 surge. Jason Terry scored Dallas' next six points before working a pick-and-roll with Nowitzki, whose foul-line jumper made it 90-84 with 6:17 to go.

The Suns closed to 91-89 with 4:11 left on a pull-up jumper by Game 1hero Boris Diaw, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds. Jerry Stackhouse had a three-point play and found Howard for an easy basket before Nowitzki answered Diaw's hook with a reverse layup for a 98-91 lead with 1:36 remaining.

A 3-pointer by Tim Thomas made it 100-96 with 40 seconds left, but he missed another eight seconds later, and Nowitzki and Stackhouse each made two free throws to seal it.

Howard, who was questionable with a bone bruise in his right ankle, made 10-of-19 shots and added seven rebounds as the Mavericks improved to 22-0 when he scores at least 20 points. He had 13 in the third quarter, keeping the Mavericks in the game.

"I had some pain cutting in and out, but for the most part I fought through it," Howard said.

"Having Howard back tonight meant a lot to us on both ends of the floor," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said.

Diop was lauded for his defense on superstar Tim Duncan in the conference semifinals but did not play in Game 1. He had 11 points and two blocks while protecting the paint and preventing the penetration the Suns had in the opener.

"I didn't know he was going to be a factor like that because the pace of the game is so quick," Johnson said. "Fortunately, I guess since he had some rest in the first game, since the coach decided not to play him. I guess he was trying to prove a point that he wanted to play a little bit more."

"Coach wanted me to get back on defense," Diop said. "They had a lot of layups the last game. Avery didn't want us to give up any more layups. I think I did all right."

Terry recovered from a slow start to score 18 points and Stackhouse added all 11 of his in the final 13 minutes for the Mavericks, who owned advantages of 48-39 on the backboards and 36-11 in free throws.

Thomas scored 20 points, Marion added 19 and 19 rebounds and Nash 16 and 11 assists for the Suns, who host Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday.

"We're in pretty good shape," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We're going to go to Phoenix and hold serve. If we do that, we win the series."

Both teams changed their starting lineups without much effect.

In place of the injured Raja Bell, Phoenix started Leandro Barbosa, who scored eight points on just 3-of-15 shooting. Dallas initially went smaller to combat Phoenix's speed and replaced center Erick Dampier with forward Keith Van Horn, who did not have a point or rebound in the first half.

Nowitzki scored eight points in a 14-0 run that overcame a slow start and gave the Mavericks a 21-15 lead. A jumper by Howard pushed the advantage to 39-31 with 6:58 left in the second quarter.

Just as they did at the end of Game 1, the Suns closed the first half with a 16-4 rush. Thomas had consecutive 3-pointers to help Phoenix - outplayed to that point - take a 52-47 lead into the locker room.