Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dirk and defense too much for Suns

PHOENIX – A tongue-wagging Dirk Nowitzki may be the defining image of the Mavericks’ come-from-behind 105-98 victory Sunday afternoon at US Airways Center. The unbridled expression followed a stumbling step-back jumper on the left baseline that clinched the win and made for good TV.

But Nowitzki’s heroics weren’t the sole reason Dallas was able to capture another of these regular-season playoff games. The Mavs completely shut down Phoenix in the fourth quarter, a stifling defensive display that frustrated Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal, Amare Stoudemire and the rest of the high-flying Suns. Phoenix, up 11 going into the quarter, managed just nine points in the final 12 minutes.

“That’s really what won the game,” Nowitzki said.

The Mavs (48-29) answered with 27 to put the finishing touches on the dramatic comeback before returning home with a solid two-game split against Pacific Division heavyweights. Two days after failing to hold a late lead against the Lakers, Avery Johnson’s crew didn’t falter after taking the lead with five minutes left.

“We took the ball to the basket, unlike the third quarter,” Johnson said. “We moved the ball on offense, unlike the third quarter. It all clicked for us. Swinging the ball helped out with our defense. We just hadn’t been able to win these types of games and it’s good for us it finally happened.”

The win reduces the magic number for clinching a playoff spot to three with five games left, as Dallas remained seventh in the Western Conference. The ninth-place Warriors (46-30) lost earlier in the day, leaving Golden State two full games back of the Mavs. No. 8 Denver had Seattle on the docket Sunday night.

Nowitzki didn’t let a bum left ankle hold him back, despite wincing in pain throughout the game. The reigning MVP battled his way to 32 points and 12 rebounds – both team highs – in 38 minutes, his longest showing since coming back. Nowitzki single-handedly outscored Phoenix in the fourth with 12 points.

Read the rest of this story along with more game coverage at

No comments: