Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 11/16

Game 1: Tuesday, November 16th
Game 2: Thursday, February 17th
Game 3: Saturday, February 26th

Suns 124

(43-13, 23-7 away)

Mavericks 123

(37-17, 18-10 home)

7:30 PM ET, February 26, 2005

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

1 2 3 4 T
PHX 38 30 27 29124
DAL 31 40 26 26123

Top Performers

PHX: A. Stoudemire 33 Pts, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Blk

Dal: D. Nowitzki 26 Pts, 16 Reb, 5 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk

Marion rejects Nowitzki layup at the buzzer

DALLAS (AP) -- One All-Star drives to the rim, seemingly headed for a winning basket at the buzzer. Then another All-Star comes flying at him from behind, takes a big swing with his right arm and the ball comes out strangely, clanging into the rim.

Clean block or a foul?

Officials decided that Shawn Marion got all ball, so his defensive play on Dirk Nowitzki gave the Phoenix Suns a 124-123 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night in a game that was intense and exciting from start to finish.

"I didn't touch him, so they couldn't call a foul," Marion said.

Or could they?

"It should be a one-point win in our favor, but it's not," Mavs coach Don Nelson said.

Dallas led by six with 1:46 left, then Phoenix closed with a 7-0 run, capped by Joe Johnson's 16-footer with 4.7 seconds left. The Mavericks had one last chance, and they perfectly executed an inbounds play, getting a screen from newly acquired Keith Van Horn to free Nowitzki on a drive to the rim.

But the speedy, high-jumping Marion recovered in time to knock the ball away. He also got the rebound, preserving Phoenix's second straight without NBA assists leader Steve Nash (strained left hamstring) after being 0-3 without him earlier this season. With San Antonio losing Saturday night, the Suns (43-13) moved a half-game ahead of the Spurs for the best record in the NBA.

When time expired, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni led a celebration-filled march to the locker room. Dallas guard Jason Terry dropped to the court and buried his head, while Nelson and owner Mark Cuban ran to the officials. Cuban ordered the replay shown on the overhead video board and fans booed a play that seemed too close to definitively call either way.

"I was wide open for a layup to win the game. I tried to dunk it, but somehow he got a hand on it," said Nowitzki, who had 26 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. "I thought I got hit on the hand and the head, but they didn't call it."

Nowitzki lamented the game even coming down to that play, noting that he missed a layup with 30 seconds left. Dallas also missed two long jumpers at the start of Phoenix's game-winning rally, which also gave the Suns a 2-1 victory over the Mavericks in the season series.

Nelson was less diplomatic about how it ended.

"It just doesn't seem fair," he said. "(Phoenix's Amare) Stoudemire got eight straight calls when he had the ball and we clearly got fouled on the last play and didn't get the call for our best player."

Stoudemire, who led the Suns with 33 points and 10 rebounds, took 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. As a team, Dallas took six.

The Mavs also noted that officials had been calling ticky-tack fouls earlier in the quarter and they pointed to their lack of reaction to the loose ball as evidence they were sure Marion whacked Nowitzki.

The loss ended Dallas' six-game winning streak, its longest of the season. The Mavs also lost for the first time this season when leading at the start of the fourth quarter; they had been 28-0.

Quentin Richardson scored 26 for Phoenix and Marion added 25 and 13 rebounds. Leandro Barbosa, who replaced Nash, scored just six after putting up a season-high 22 the previous game. Johnson scored 18.

Terry, who was scoreless in 15 minutes his previous game, led Dallas with 27 points and seven assists. Michael Finley scored just 13, ending a five-game streak with at least 20.

Nash's absence certainly disappointed many in the sellout crowd of 20,435, especially those wearing his old Dallas No. 13 jerseys. But a scoring pace that at times seemed like an ABA game more than made up for it.

Both teams shot more than 58 percent in the first half, with Dallas coming out ahead 71-68. The Mavs had a stretch of 12 baskets on 14 shots in the second quarter.

Then Phoenix opened the third quarter making eight straight. But Dallas answered with a 14-2 run that took it from five down to five up.

Van Horn, acquired Thursday from Milwaukee, tied the game at 113 with a driving layup then put the Mavericks up with a rebound and putback after Terry stole the inbounds pass. Dallas stretched the lead to 123-117 on a layup by Nowitzki -- then didn't score again.

Game notes

Dallas had a season-high 18 steals, two shy of the franchise record. ... D'Antoni said Nash also will sit Sunday at home against Boston. ... Dallas rookie D.J. Mbenga started for the first time and had four points and one rebound in 10 minutes. He was so fired up that during introductions he did a jumping chest bump into Nowitzki, knocking Nowitzki back several steps.<

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 124 123
FGM-FGA 49-87 (.563) 46-94 (.489)
3PM-3PA 8-20 (.400) 7-21 (.333)
FTM-FTA 18-27 (.667) 24-33 (.727)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-45 15-45
Assists 20 19
Turnovers 19 12
Steals 8 18
Blocks 5 4
Fast Break Points 23 27
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 24 (1/0)
Largest Lead 9 7

Top Performers

Amar'e Stoudemire Stoudemire
Points: 33
Reb: 10
Ast: 2
Stl: 0
Blk: 3
Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
Points: 26
Reb: 16
Ast: 5
Stl: 4
Blk: 1