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
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
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.