Suns limp back home facing must-win Game 6

Updated: June 2, 2006, 1:51 AM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Phoenix Suns are going to need another Game 7 if they're going to make it to the NBA Finals. First, though, they've got to win Game 6.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesSteve Nash had 11 assists and 20 points, but was only 5-for-17 from the floor.
With Raja Bell hobbling, Steve Nash struggling with his shot and fatigue maybe taking a toll, the Suns lost 117-101 to Dallas on Thursday night and fell behind 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

"We just got discombobulated in the fourth quarter," Shawn Marion said. "We had it going our way, then the next thing you know we just went the other way."

The running Suns couldn't keep up with Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki.

"We didn't actually play very well, but we fought well for a long time tonight," Nash said.

Maybe they're finally wearing down.

Phoenix had to go seven games against both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers to get this far. Plus, they had to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the first-round series against the Lakers.

To get to the NBA Finals, Phoenix will have to win at home on Saturday night -- their fifth elimination game this postseason. Then they would have come back to Dallas on Monday night.

"I don't think we enjoy (adversity), but I think we're more ready, more aggressive and we play our best when we have our backs to the wall," said Boris Diaw, held to a series-low 16 points.

Even when the Suns charged to a seven-point lead in the third quarter, they were never in control. Not with Nowitzki on way to a playoff career-high 50 points, after being held to 11 in Phoenix's 106-86 victory in Game 4.

Tim Thomas had a playoff career-high 26 points, but didn't score again after the last of his six 3s.

Phoenix was within 89-88 with nine minutes left when Bell was called for foul against Josh Howard, who had appeared to do some pushing of his own. Then the Suns got frustrated.

Bell argued and was called for a technical foul. Coach Mike D'Antoni got a technical, too, when he had words with the officials.

"They didn't help anything. That's for sure," D'Antoni said. "That was definitely a turning point."

Nowitzki hit both free throws after a timeout, then an 18-foot jumper to make it 93-88.

Within a couple of minutes later, the Mavericks led by 10 when Nowitzki hit two more free throws after being fouled by Marion.

Bell, a surprise starter in Game 4 despite a partially torn left calf when he scored nine points, had three points on 1-of-5 shooting in 29 minutes Thursday. D'Antoni pulled him out of the game after the technical foul, but not because of that call.

"For sure, he's not 100 percent. ... As long as the series goes, he gets a little better and he'll be ready to go in Game 6," D'Antoni said.

"I didn't feel like I was helping the team, and Mike saw that," Bell said. "I felt decent. It's getting better. I'm not recovering on the timetable I would like, but I'm trying to make plays."

Nash still had 11 assists, but his 20 points came on 5-of-17 shooting and 9-of-9 free throws. The two-time MVP was scoreless in the third quarter, as was Bell, when Nash's former teammate and good buddy began to completely take over the game.

"They got separation from us, and we didn't play well after that," Nash said. "We just want to play a better game and put together 48 minutes like we did in Game 5 ... what was that, 4? I'm losing track."

That's what happens when there's no time to rest.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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