DALLAS, June 1 (Ticker) -- In the second quarter, Tim Thomas blew a
kiss at Dirk Nowitzki. In the fourth quarter, Nowitzki blew
away the Phoenix Suns.
Nowitzki scored 22 of his franchise playoff-record 50 points in
the final period to power the Dallas Mavericks to a 117-101
victory over the Suns in the pivotal fifth game of the Western
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Responding with a vengeance after his first poor game of the
postseason, Nowitzki took complete control and moved the
fourth-seeded Mavericks within one win of their first trip to
the NBA Finals. They can get there with a win at Phoenix on
The breakout star of the postseason, Nowitzki has carried Dallas
with his scoring, rebounding, leadership and toughness. He
finally showed he was human in Game 4 as he managed just 11
points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"He was disappointed with the last game," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "I'm not going to tell you everything that went
on behind the scenes. But we were all disappointed."
"I could let out that Avery got on me very good yesterday,"
Nowitzki said. "We watched the film session and he let me have
it. That's really about all that happened."
Expected to bounce back, Nowitzki shot the Mavericks to an early
double-digit lead. But when the Suns rallied in the second
quarter, Thomas ended a trash-talking session with Nowitzki by
blowing him a kiss.
"If I could say the word (I called him), I would, but there's a
lot of females around here. You get it?" Thomas said.
"In the playoffs, every possession means so much more and the
emotions run high so I don't think that was a big deal,"
Initially, it looked like the kiss of death as the 3-point
shooting of Thomas had the Suns holding a 77-70 lead late in the
third quarter and looking to steal the series lead. The
Mavericks answered with a 10-0 spurt featuring 10 points from
Nowitzki, who turned every other player into a spectator in the
"In the third quarter when we were down seven, I saw the whole
season swimming away," he said. "They just kept making shots
and this great season we had, the great playoff run so far, kept
swimming away. At that point I just said, 'Let's go.' Whatever
we need to do, we need to get stops, I shoot the ball, drive
the ball, whatever we need to do to get this win."
Beginning with two technical foul shots at the 8:55 mark,
Nowitzki scored the next 15 points for Dallas, all in under four
minutes. He made mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers and
overwhelmed smaller defenders who had no choice but to foul.
When he was finished, Dallas had a 104-93 lead wth 4:59 to play.
Nowitzki also delivered a couple of daggers down the stretch.
When the Suns closed to 107-98, Nowitzki tipped in a miss with
3:33 left, then buried a 3-pointer for a 115-98 bulge with 1:45
"When he's on those rolls, and then he's shooting the ball so
well, he would pump fake and we bit and put him to the line and
he got loose," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He came up with
an unbelievable game that should make them win. I think it
Nowitzki made 14-of-26 shots - including 5-of-6 from the arc -
and 17-of-18 free throws as he joined Los Angeles Lakers guard
Kobe Bryant as 50-point scorers in this postseason. Both
performances came against the Suns.
Josh Howard scored 23 points for the Mavericks, who improved to
24-0 this season when he scores 20 or more. Jerry Stackhouse
scored 16 points and Jason Terry added 14 and nine assists.
"We are one game away from doing something this team has never
done before," Stackhouse said. "So hopefully we can bring all
of that energy that we need (Saturday)."
Thomas made six 3-pointers and scored 26 points - both
postseason career highs - and Steve Nash and Shawn Marion added
20 apiece for the Suns, who are 4-0 in elimination games in the
postseason and face another Saturday.
"I don't think we enjoy it, but I think we're more ready, more
aggressive and we play our best when we have our backs to the
wall," Suns center Boris Diaw said.
Both teams played well in a spirited up-tempo affair. Dallas
shot 47 percent (42-of-89), made 24-of-28 free throws and
committed just nine turnovers. Phoenix shot 46 percent
(36-of-79), made 19-of-20 free throws and committed 13
In the first quarter, Nowitzki eclipsed his Game 4 total with
13 points as Dallas sped to a 36-23 lead. Phoenix helped by
committing seven turnovers, including three shot-clock
violations - unheard of for its breakneck offense.
"After the last game where I never found my rhythm, I just
wanted to be aggressive, no matter what happens," Nowitzki said.
"I took the first two shots right away to the basket and
missed them but I was just aggressive trying to make things
The Mavericks still held a 47-34 lead midway through the second
period when the Suns finally got their running game in gear and
closed to 58-55 at halftime. Thomas was right in the middle of
the surge with consecutive 3-pointers, a dunk and his smooch at
Nowitzki, which drew technicals for both players.
"I was just trying to take the ball from him," Thomas said. "I
never in my life saw Dirk talk so much, but I know where I'm
from, if I was going to get punked by him, I'd never be able to
go back. That was definitely not going to happen."
"That's regular playoff play," Nowitzki said. "There wasn't
very much said. We were bumping each other a little bit and
exchanged a couple of words."
It was more of the same in the third quarter, when Thomas scored
12 points in just over three minutes. He made a pair of
3-pointers, went around a flailing Nowitzki for a dunk that
became a three-point play and drained another 3-pointer for a
77-70 lead with 3:27 left.
Nowitzki refused to let the game get away and led the Mavericks
right back. He made two free throws and a jumper around a
three-point play by Devin Harris, then buried a 3-pointer for an