DALLAS (AP) -- With two guards out temporarily and two key big
men out much longer, the Phoenix Suns are relying even more on NBA
MVP Steve Nash.
Opponents know it, too, especially the newly defensive-oriented
Jason Terry scored 23 points and helped hold Nash, his
predecessor as the Dallas point guard, to one basket in the second
half, sending the Mavericks past the Suns 102-96 Wednesday night.
"We were just trying to contain him," Terry said. "He's the
toughest guard in the league to stay with."
Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for
Dallas. Josh Howard scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high 18
rebounds in his second game back from a bad ankle injury, and
Marquis Daniels scored 15 before leaving with a strained neck
caused by a flagrant foul from Phoenix center Kurt Thomas.
Meeting in Dallas for the first time since Nash embarrassed
Terry for the winning basket in a second-round playoff series,
Terry outplayed the reigning MVP and former Mavs star this time --
though it wasn't a fair fight because of Phoenix's depleted lineup.
Terry made 10 of 22 shots with four assists. He had seven points
during an early 15-2 run that put Dallas ahead for good and nailed
a 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to slow a Suns rally.
He pumped his fist when time expired, relieved that Phoenix bounced
back from a last-minute loss to the Lakers to win for the sixth
time in seven games.
Nash was 6-of-18 for 20 points with five assists. He scored only
four points, two on free throws, over nearly 21 minutes in the
final two quarters as Phoenix lost its third straight since winning
nine in a row.
"I didn't shoot well and you have to give them some credit for
that," Nash said. "If we were a healthy team, we would be
concerned but it's tough when you are playing with a short bench.
We've just got to stay confident."
The Suns are losing their grip on their status as the league's
highest-scoring team. This was the fourth straight game they've
been held under 100 points.
"With Leandro Barbosa's speed being out and not having James
Jones to hit some shots, we don't quite have enough right now,"
said coach Mike D'Antoni, whose lineup also is missing Amare
Stoudemire and Brian Grant. "We just have to find ways to win,
hold serve until we get some of our reinforcements back."
They'll also have to do it away from the comforts of home. This
was Phoenix's league-low seventh road game and the start of a
stretch of eight of 10 games on the road.
Shawn Marion led the Suns with 23 points and had 19 rebounds,
one shy of his career high. He also hit four 3-pointers, but missed
one with 1:54 left that would've tied it at 97.
"It was right in our grasp," Marion said. "It's tough to play
with seven guys, but at the same time we let them get way too many
Dallas won that stat 20-13. A bigger difference came on points
in the paint: 52-30, a risk Phoenix takes every night, especially
while Stoudamire is out.
"I think we did a great job getting people in post position,
taking it to the basket," Nowitzki said. "Teams like that, when
they go small, you've got to punish them inside."
Howard did much of the damage, which was a surprise after he
played only 11 minutes the previous game and was still limping on
his wobbly ankle. He credited a change in footwear for the spring
in his step.
"That's normal Josh -- jumping all over the place," Nowitzki
Daniels was on a roll in the third quarter when Thomas smacked
him across the face from behind on a drive to the basket. He stayed
in for a few more series, then went to the locker room for the rest
of the night. A Dallas native, Thomas was booed loudly when he
fouled out with 2:40 left. He had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Dallas was 18-of-32 from the foul line, missing seven times in
the fourth quarter. Four straight misses came seconds apart with a
little more than 2 minutes left to help the Suns keep it close.
Devin Harris missed another in the closing seconds, but a missed
shot followed and Terry celebrated with a fist pump as time
The visiting team had won the previous four regular-season
meetings. ... D'Antoni said he expects Jones to return this
weekend. This was the second straight game he missed because of a
sprained right ankle. ... Mavs F Keith Van Horn didn't play because
of a bruised hip. "We're just calling him day-to-day," coach
Avery Johnson said. ... Johnson said Jerry Stackhouse (knee) might
make his season debut next week. "He's close," Johnson said.