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Sonics / NBA

Thursday, May 25, 2006 - Page updated at 01:54 PM

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NBA Playoffs: Clutch turnaround caps Phoenix's rally in Game 1

The Associated Press

DALLAS — So far in the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have pushed around Pau Gasol and outlasted Tim Duncan.

But Steve Nash and an agile big man? They still haven't figured that one out.

With Nash picking up where he left off against his former team last postseason and Boris Diaw filling the role of Amare Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns erased a late nine-point deficit and beat the Mavericks 121-118 Wednesday night in a thrilling, fast-paced start to the Western Conference finals.

Nash scored 10 of his 27 points in the final 3:26, then set up Shawn Marion on a go-ahead basket with 43 seconds left. After Dallas regained the lead on a jumper by Devin Harris with 4.8 seconds to go, Diaw swished a turnaround 7-footer with a half-second remaining on a play originally designed for Nash.

"I saw their bench basically yelling out exactly what was going to happen, so I was like, 'OK, Plan B,' " Nash said. "I was about to call timeout, but ... Tim [Thomas] got it inside and Boris made a heck of a play."

Diaw scored a career-high 34 points, showing on a big stage why he was voted the league's most improved player and why the Suns are back in the conference finals for the second straight year despite having had Stoudemire for only three games.

"At one point there was a label on him that he was a soft, non-competitive player," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I'm telling you he's just the opposite. ... He's one of the most competitive guys we have, just an intelligent basketball player that knows how to play."

Harris scored a career-high 30 and Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 19 rebounds, but the Mavericks blew their late lead with a spurt of turnovers and a lack of defensive stops when they needed them most.

"We were just bad tonight in a lot of different areas that we have to improve on in a hurry," coach Avery Johnson said.

It shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, though, because the combination of Nash and Stoudemire carried the Suns past the Mavericks in the second round of last year's playoffs. Stoudemire scored between 30 and 40 each of the first three games, then Nash burned them with between 34 and 48 over the last three games.

Dallas fans might not be able to take more of these heart-stopping finishes this postseason. The Mavericks were coming off a second-round series against San Antonio that included six games decided at the end, including Game 7 in overtime.

One consolation for the Mavericks is that they also lost the opener to the Spurs. Another is that Game 2 is in Dallas on Friday night.

For Phoenix, this furious finish stuff is becoming fun.

The Suns lost all seven regular-season games decided by three points or less, then dropped another early in the playoffs. But now they've won two nail-biters, having also beaten the Clippers 94-91 in Game 3 of the previous round.

Both teams lost starters to leg injuries — Josh Howard for Dallas (sprained right ankle) and Raja Bell (strained left calf) for Phoenix. The Suns also are concerned about Marion, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds but appeared to hurt his left ankle in the final minutes.

Asked if he'll be able to play Game 2, Marion said, "Hey, I don't have a choice."

Howard is having an MRI today to determine if and when he'll return. Bell left the locker room on crutches.

"I felt it pop," he said. "It's pretty painful. But I've got to be optimistic. I want to play. We'll see how it feels in the morning."

PHOENIX fg ft
min m-a m-a or-t a pf pts
TThomas 34:20 5-11 5-6 1-7 0 5 17
Marion 39:16 10-15 4-4 4-13 0 3 24
Diaw 38:17 13-23 8-10 4-6 2 4 34
Nash 39:31 11-18 3-3 1-5 16 2 27
Bell 35:12 3-5 1-2 0-1 0 3 8
Jones 10:13 1-1 0-0 0-2 1 0 2
Barbosa 34:42 1-7 1-4 2-3 3 2 3
House 8:29 3-5 0-0 0-1 2 1 6
Totals 47-85 22-29 12-38 24 20 121
Percentages: FG .553, FT .759. Three-point goals: 5-15, .333 (T.Thomas 2-3, Nash 2-5, Bell 1-1, Marion 0-1, House 0-2, Barbosa 0-3). Team rebounds: 5. Team turnovers: 15 (22 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (Marion 3, Diaw). Turnovers: 15 (Barbosa 4, Diaw 3, Marion 3, Nash 3, House, T.Thomas). Steals: 7 (Marion 3, T.Thomas 2, Barbosa, Diaw). Technical fouls: None.
DALLAS fg ft
min m-a m-a or-t a pf pts
Howard 5:59 3-4 0-0 0-0 0 1 6
Nowitzki 40:46 8-18 9-10 8-19 2 2 25
Dampier 16:42 3-4 0-0 3-5 1 2 6
Terry 39:54 6-17 2-2 0-4 3 4 15
DevHarris 30:09 12-17 6-7 2-2 2 5 30
Griffin 26:54 2-3 0-0 1-6 2 3 4
Stackhouse 34:32 7-13 1-1 1-4 3 4 16
Van Horn 23:03 3-11 0-0 2-5 0 3 7
Daniels 14:30 3-4 3-3 1-1 0 0 9
Armstrong 7:31 0-2 0-0 0-2 0 2 0
Totals 47-93 21-23 18-48 13 26 118
Percentages: FG .505, FT .913. Three-point goals: 3-16, .188 (Stackhouse 1-2, Terry 1-5, Van Horn 1-7, Armstrong 0-1, Howard 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Team turnovers: 16 (15 PTS). Blocked shots: 2 (Armstrong, Van Horn). Turnovers: 16 (Dev.Harris 3, Nowitzki 3, Stackhouse 3, Terry 3, Daniels 2, Griffin 2). Steals: 9 (Dev.Harris 5, Griffin, Nowitzki, Stackhouse, Terry). Technical fouls: None.
Phoenix 35 27 29 30 — 121
Dallas 29 29 37 23 — 118
Attendance: 20,789 (19,200). Time: 2:39. Officials: Bernie Fryer, Joe Forte, Greg Willard.
Phoenix vs. Dallas
Phoenix leads best-of-7 series 1-0
Date Result
Wed. Phoenix 121, Dallas 118
Date Site Time, TV
Fri. Dallas 5:30 p.m., TNT
Sun. Phoenix 5:30 p.m., TNT
Tue. Phoenix 6 p.m., TNT
June 1* Dallas 5:30 p.m., TNT
June 3* Phoenix 5:30 p.m., TNT
June 5* Dallas 5:30 p.m., TNT
*if necessary

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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