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 Conference finals.

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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 Friday.

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," Nowitzki said.

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 final period.

"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 to play.

"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 did."

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 turnovers.

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 happen."

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 80-77 lead.