Dallas 101, Phoenix 99

DALLAS, Dec. 28 (AP) -- Jason Terry re-emerged late for the Dallas Mavericks, just when they needed him again.

After scoring 32 of his season-high 35 points by the midpoint of the third quarter, Terry hit a big 3-pointer and then set up Dirk Nowitzki's 19-footer with 1.3 seconds left in a 101-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

"All respect goes to JT. He came out lights out shooting the ball, getting us into our offense and just running the team,'' Josh Howard said. "He was our general. Dirk and myself struggled, but at key plays, he found both guys and we finished the basket for him.''

The Mavericks (22-7), with the best record in the NBA, won their eighth straight game. The defending Western Conference champs are 22-3 since the first 0-4 start in team history.

Nowitzki's game-winner came from the right wing over Shawn Marion.

"I heard my number called. Shawn was guarding me and I was going to hold it a little longer, but I think he was a little surprised that I quick-shot it,'' Nowitzki said. "I wasn't shooting the ball well all night so I'm happy it went in.''

With 23 seconds left, Terry also had a nifty pass to Howard for an acrobatic layup that put the Mavs up 99-97.

The Suns had one more chance after Nowitzki's shot. But after a timeout and the inbound pass, Amare Stoudemire's 22-foot shot bounded off the front of the rim as time expired. That ended Phoenix's eight-game road winning streak, one short of the team record.

"It was about the best we could have expected in that situation,'' said Stoudemire, who finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Dallas and Phoenix (19-8) were a combined 2-9 - with one victory each - after the Mavericks won the first meeting Nov. 9. They met again as division leaders with the top two winning percentages in the NBA. That initial victory by the Mavs started a 12-game winning streak, and the Suns have since set a franchise record by winning 15 in a row.

"It was a great game, the last bucket won it,'' said Steve Nash, the NBA MVP in both seasons since leaving Dallas for Phoenix. "Dirk's a clutch player and he made a big shot. ... It was pretty evenly matched teams. Little mistakes here and there cost us the game.''

Nash finished with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting with 13 assists - including the last two game-tying baskets.

An ally-oop pass from Nash led to Stoudemire's one-handed dunk with 1:07 left that tied the game at 97. Nash's more conventional pass to Marion led to a layup with 6.3 seconds left, and the Mavericks called timeout to set up their final play.

"Dirk was the only option. We didn't have a plan B,'' coach Avery Johnson said. "We were trying to get him the ball. Just jokingly, we told Jason to try.''

Terry had eight assists and his second 30-point game of the season, both against the Suns. Nowitzki finished with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting with 10 rebounds. Howard had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Terry scored 10 in the Mavs' 15-2 run that pushed them ahead 73-60 with five minutes left in the third quarter. Dallas then fell behind by as many as nine before Terry finally scored again - hitting a 3-pointer with 2:09 left that put the Mavs ahead 95-94.

Phoenix scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter, including consecutive 3-pointers by Jumaine Jones - one from the right corner and the other from the left wing - to put the Suns ahead 86-78. Before Stoudemire's breakaway slam that gave the Suns an 80-78 lead, they hadn't led since the first quarter.

That ended a 29-8 run over a seven-plus-minute span. Stoudemire had nine of the points and Leandro Barbosa seven.

Phoenix wiped out a 13-point deficit in the second quarter and tied the game at 47 on Raja Bell's 17-footer that came after Dallas came up empty on four straight possessions. But Terry had a steal and two assists to Nowitzki to keep the Suns for taking the lead after consecutive turnovers in a half-minute by Stoudemire.

Notes: Mavericks C DeSagana Diop left with 9:37 left in the game and didn't return after sustaining a cut over his left eye when he was fouled by Marion. The Mavericks said Diop, who had to be helped from the court and into the locker room, was experiencing dizziness. He did come to the bench in the final minute... Jerry Stackhouse missed his third straight game for Dallas because of a sprained left ankle. He's not expected back until at least next week.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited