PHOENIX, May 28 (Ticker) --
The Dallas Mavericks have somehow done the
impossible: They stopped the Phoenix Suns from running.
Bringing the NBA's most feared fast break to a standstill with a
remarkable defensive effort, the Mavericks regained home-court
advantage with a 95-88 victory over the Suns in Game 3 of
the Western Conference finals.
NBA TV highlights from |
had 28 points and 17 rebounds for the
fourth-seeded Mavericks, who have stymied the second-seeded Suns
in two straight games after giving away the opener at home.
Dallas improved to 5-2 on the road in the postseason.
Mavericks coach Avery Johnson
admitted that his team cannot
afford to run with the Suns, who use a wide-open offense piloted
by two-time MVP Steve Nash
to press the tempo better than any
team in the league.
To combat the run-and-gun Suns, Johnson has demanded patience on
offense and hustle on defense. With their advantage in depth,
the Mavericks have made a commitment to winning the transition
"We had a more balanced offense and didn't take bad shots,"
Johnson said. "When we take bad shots that hurts us on the
other end. We have better balance and transition when we do
what we do. If you can get 10 steps on a guys that is faster
then you going down the other end of the court, you're at an
advantage. We can't run as fast as those guys, so we better get
a head start."
"We really controlled the tempo great," Nowitzki said.
"Especially in the second half we got back in transition. We
wanted to run when we had the chance but if not we wanted to
slow it down, look for some shots. We only shot 41 percent but
if you get a shot up every time and don't turn the ball over
that keeps them from running. If they have to play defense for
24 seconds all the time they don't get the run-outs."
Second in the NBA in fast-break points during the season,
Phoenix managed just four fast-break points Sunday - and zero in
the second half. The offense grinded to a halt, totaling just
36 points after halftime and failing to reach 90 for the first
in the postseason.
"I think they are getting back, doing a better job in getting
back on transition," Nash said. "I don't know
if fatigue is a factor but we are not running like we need to.
It was a little frustrating to see us not give the extra effort
tonight, especially in the second half, when we got caught too
many times going 1-on-1."
"We got to run," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "We didn't do
it. We didn't have the neccassary enrgy to force the issue. I
don't know if they are looking down the floor and seeing a
couple of guys back and the rest of the guys stop running. If
we don't run and spread the floor and hit them quick we are
going to end up with 88 points."
Dallas got the offense it needed, especially from Nowitzki,
and Jason Terry
, who combined for 40 of their 69 points
in the second half. Howard scored 16 of his 22 points and Terry
10 of his 19 after halftime.
The Mavericks also had the upper hand in effort and
concentration. They held edges in rebounds (48-45), offensive
rebounds (19-12) and steals (8-0) while committing just five
turnovers and forcing 13.
"I don't think we get enough credit for being a team that
hustles," Johnson said. "If you don't try to outhustle the Suns
the way they play for long rebounds, short rebounds, you are
going to be in trouble. You got to have quickness to get the
long rebounds and that is just hustle."
Nowhere was that more evident that down the stretch. Trailing
by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, the Suns closed
to 88-84 and had the ball when Tim Thomas
made a lazy pass to
Nash that was stolen by Howard, who went in for a layup with
"I thought Steve was there," Thomas said. "I was already in
motion ready to throw the ball to Steve, then all of a sudden
Josh Howard was there. I didn't even see him coming."
After Shawn Marion
missed a 3-pointer, the Mavericks held the
ball for more than a minute, grabbing three offensive rebounds.
They may have received a break when Nowitzki's desperation
30-footer was ruled to have hit the rim and Terry sealed it with
a jumper for a 92-84 bulge with 33 seconds to go.
"I think that Thomas turnover was big and then we missed a
couple of shots but we were able to get two big offensive
rebounds right after that," Nowitzki said. "When they play
their small lineup, you gotta go in and get some offensvie
rebounds. We got 19 today."
Howard pulled down 12 rebounds for Dallas, which never trailed
in the fourth quarter and won despite shooting 41 percent
Nash scored 21 points, Boris Diaw
added 20 and Leandro Barbosa
17 for the Suns, who shot 43 percent (35-of-82). Marion had 10
points and 18 rebounds and Thomas added 14 and 10.
Nowitzki's first two 3-pointers of the series helped the
Mavericks remain within 25-22 after one period. But a
dedication to defense caused the offense to sputter.
A 3-pointer by Nash gave the Suns their largest lead at 50-39
with 3:05 left in the first half. A minute later, Howard was
called for a flagrant foul on Thomas, who traded technicals with
Terry before making two free throws.
Dallas closed the quarter with an 8-2 spurt, then opened the
second half with a highly energetic 12-2 run fueled by Nowitzki
and Howard, taking a 59-54 lead on a jumper by Terry.
"The turning point was at the end of the first half where we up
by 11 and missed a couple of layups and we had a couple of bad
plays," D'Antoni said. "We came in the half up by five instead
of up by 11, 13 or 15. Then we came out a little flat. We
didn't play real smart."
The Mavericks trailed for just 20 seconds thereafter, taking the
lead for good at 78-72 with a 6-0 spurt early in the final