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Thomas replies to Nowitzki's talk with taunts
By Jerry Brown
East Valley Tribune
June 2, 2006
DALLAS - The seeds for Thursday's face-to-face taunting match between Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Thomas — and the air-kiss Thomas ultimately sent in Dirk’s direction — were planted in Game 4 when Thomas grew tired of Nowitzki’s constant complaints to the officials.
“I was telling Steve Nash (after Game 4), I’ve never seen Dirk talk so much trash and talk to the officials as he has in this series,” Thomas said before the game. “Maybe he thinks a player of a certain stature should be able to go to the refs and get the calls he wants.”
Things boiled over with 40 seconds left in the first half when technical fouls were handed to each when a fight for the ball during a change of possession deteriorated into a taunting match. Nowitzki said it was no big deal, but Thomas — as was the case all night — saw things another way.
“I was trying to get the ball away from him to get it out quick and he threw it at me, then he tried to slap it away again,” he said. “Where I’m from (New Jersey), if I was to get punked by him, I’d never be able to go back. I don’t want to say what he said, there are ladies around. If I could say it, I would.”
Thomas scored a career playoff-high 26 points, but Nowitzki blew that away with 50 points, hitting 17 of 18 free throws. Four of them came on technical fouls (three) and defensive violations (one) against Phoenix. Two were called back-to-back on Raja Bell and coach Mike D’Antoni with the Mavericks leading by one with nine minutes left.
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“Dirk shot 18 free throws,” Thomas said. “That about sums it up. His game plan was working.”
The Mavericks vowed to put more pressure on Bell in Game 5 and his partially torn left calf muscle gave him even more trouble. Bell had three points in 28 minutes, missing four of his five shots, and appeared to have trouble keeping up defensively when Dallas players took the ball to the basket.
“I can’t blame it on the leg, it was just a tough night,” Bell said. “I was frustrated; I didn’t feel like I could do the things I wanted to do, leg or no leg. That’s the way it went.
But in the end, “I chose to play, so I’m not going to make excuses for it.”
The Suns had their three-guard lineup (Bell, Nash and Leandro Barbosa) on the floor when Dallas went on a big run to end the first quarter, using six offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points to take a 36-23 lead.
Dallas center DJ Mbenga was suspended for six games without pay — beginning with Thursday’s Game 5 — for leaving the bench and entering the stands at US Airways Center during Game 4 following an altercation between the wife of Mavericks coach Avery Johnson and two Suns fans.
Mbenga, who played a total of 4:28 in three games against San Antonio, has been inactive for the Western Conference finals with Phoenix and hasn’t dressed for any games.
“In that situation, DJ thought that he could assist the coach’s family, but I hope somebody would have grabbed him before he went and took the two or three steps or whatever he did,” Johnson said. “But we’re all one big family. We’re in it together.”
NBA senior vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said it will not take any action against Dallas owner Mark Cuban for his involvement in the incident.
Cuban told TNT that he will send a videotape to the NBA league office regarding a fourth-quarter incident between Suns forward Shawn Marion and the Mavericks' Adrian Griffin. Cuban claimed Marion threw an intentional elbow at Griffin.
Marion scoffed at Cuban's allegation, saying, "I didn't throw an elbow at him. I'm not a dirty player. I don't throw elbows. He grabbed me, and I told him ‘You don't grab me like that.’ ’’
Johnson said young guard Devin Harris is going through “a tremendous learning experience” in battling Nash. The matchup reminds him of his playing days when he went face-to-face with John Stockton. Like Harris, “I was the guy who liked to get to the basket,” Johnson said. Stockton, like Nash, favored playing a zone-type defense. “It really brings back a lot of memories,” he said.
Harris didn’t enjoy Thursday’s pop quiz. Nash schooled him into three fouls in just six minutes of playing time. Harris didn’t get up a shot.
The Suns had 20 fast-break points in Game 5 and lost by 16 points after getting only six fast-break points in Game 4 and winning by 20.
COPYRIGHT 2006, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.