Friday, February 15, 2008

Sun sets in the desert

PHOENIX – Think how much more fun Thursday night would have been with Shaquille O’Neal around.

The Big Nickname to be Named Later was among the spectators inside sold-out US Airway Arena for the NBA’s last game before the All-Star break. What a show it was.

The Mavericks and Suns aren’t at full strength, but those on the floor flexed their basketball brawn. Steve Nash and his cohorts out-dueled Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and the rest of the Mavs 109-97 before the league regroups in New Orleans.

After the events of the last couple days, the Mavs could use some regrouping as well. Rumors of players coming and going dominated the headlines, but focus never seemed to waver from the task at hand.

“We’ve shown the last two nights we find a way to play through that stuff,” Nowitzki said. “Even with the injuries and the distractions of yesterday and today, I thought we gave it our best shot.

“I don’t think in the locker room we had problems the last two days. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve still got to stay together.”

The Mavs (35-18) dropped to 1-1 against Phoenix this season and 23-7 against the Western Conference. The 35 wins are tied for the fourth-most in team history at the All-Star break.

Twice in the fourth quarter, the Suns took seven-point leads on momentum-turning plays. The first – a four-point possession aided by a foul and technical foul – gave Phoenix a 91-84 edge with 7:03 left.

The Mavs closed the gap before Amare Stoudemire responded with a dunk over Nowitzki and subsequent free throw for a 98-91 advantage with 3:39 remaining. Dallas could get no closer than seven from there.

“We just didn’t have enough gas at the end to get over the top,” Nowitzki said. “I think the focus, the intensity, the energy was there. I expect the same thing when we get back.”

The pace was reminiscent of what this rivalry has seen over the years. While the Mavs worked for shots relatively quickly, Phoenix usually hit back before seven seconds elapsed on the shot clock.

Nash orchestrated the attack, scoring 24 and totaling 13 of the team’s 24 assists. The Mavs funneled the ball through Nowitzki and Terry. The lead swung back and forth, and other than a couple instances when the spread neared double figures, both sides were usually within a basket or two of each other.

The Mavs were once again without Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris. Phoenix hit the floor without Shaq, who has yet to play since the trade with Miami on Feb. 6. Nowitzki scored 36 after tallying a season-high 37 in Wednesday’s win over Portland.

“Hopefully, we can get everybody healthy and go from there,” Nowitzki said.

Terry, back in the state where he played his college ball, scored a season-high 29 after netting 24 the previous night. Realizing he wasn’t doing enough with the injuries mounting, a decisive Terry has shot it with confidence for the second game in a row.

Nowitzki and Terry were the only two Mavs in double figures. Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa each scored 26, while Boris Diaw added 19 for Phoenix.

The Mavs finished a stretch of four games in five days at 1-3. The season resumes Wednesday at New Orleans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

top [url=]casino games[/url] brake the latest [url=]casino games[/url] autonomous no store perk at the chief [url=]baywatch casino