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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.<