Dallas wins series 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Dallas wins series 4-2

Game 1: Wednesday, May 24th
Game 2: Friday, May 26th
Game 3: Sunday, May 28th
Game 4: Tuesday, May 30th
Game 5: Thursday, June 1st
Game 6: Saturday, June 3rd

Suns 121

(54-28, 23-18 away)

Mavericks 118

(60-22, 34-7 home)

7:30 PM ET, May 24, 2006

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

1 2 3 4 T
PHX 35 27 29 30121
DAL 29 29 37 23118

Top Performers

PHX: S. Nash 27 Pts, 5 Reb, 16 Ast

Dal: D. Nowitzki 25 Pts, 19 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Suns ride Diaw, Nash to victory in Game 1

DALLAS (AP) -- So far in the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have pushed around Pau Gasol and outlasted Tim Duncan.

But Steve Nash and an agile big man? They still haven't figured that one out.

Daily Dime
I don't think losing Raja Bell is how the Phoenix Suns wanted to start the Western Conference finals, but I don't think I'm ready to say they can't win this series without him.

To read more of Marc Stein's analysis in the Wednesday night Daily Dime, click here.

With Nash picking up where he left off against his former team last postseason and Boris Diaw filling the role of Amare Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns erased a late nine-point deficit and beat the Mavericks 121-118 Wednesday night in a thrilling, fast-paced start to the Western Conference finals.

Nash scored 10 of his 27 points in the final 3:26, then set up Shawn Marion on a go-ahead basket with 43 seconds left. After Dallas regained the lead on a jumper by Devin Harris with 4.8 seconds to go, Diaw swished a turnaround 7-footer with a half-second remaining on a play originally designed for Nash.

"I saw their bench basically yelling out exactly what was going to happen, so I was like, 'OK, Plan B," Nash said. "I was about to call timeout, but ... Tim (Thomas) got it inside and Boris made a heck of a play."

Diaw scored a career-high 34 points, showing on a big stage why he was voted the league's most improved player and why the Suns are back in the conference finals for the second straight year despite having had Stoudemire for only three games.

"At one point there was a label on him that he was a soft, non-competitive player," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I'm telling you he's just the opposite. ... He's one of the most competitive guys we have, just an intelligent basketball player that knows how to play."

Harris scored a career-high 30 and Dirk Nowitzki had 25 points and 19 rebounds, but the Mavericks blew their late lead with a spurt of turnovers and a lack of defensive stops when they needed them most.

"We were just bad tonight in a lot of different areas that we have to improve on in a hurry," coach Avery Johnson said.

It shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, though, because the combination of Nash and Stoudemire carried the Suns past the Mavs in the second round of last year's playoffs. Stoudemire scored between 30 and 40 each of the first three games, then Nash burned them with between 34 and 48 over the last three games.

Dallas fans might not be able to take more of these heart-stopping finishes this postseason. The Mavericks were coming off a second-round series against San Antonio that included six games decided at the end, including Game 7 in overtime.

One consolation for the Mavs is that they also lost the opener to the Spurs. Another is that Game 2 is in Dallas on Friday night.

For Phoenix, this furious finish stuff is becoming fun.

The Suns lost all seven regular-season games decided by three points or less, then dropped another early in the playoffs. But now they've won two nail-biters, having also beaten the Clippers 94-91 in Game 3 of the previous round.

Both teams lost starters to leg injuries -- Josh Howard for Dallas (sprained right ankle) and Raja Bell (strained left calf) for Phoenix. The Suns also are concerned about Marion, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds but appeared to hurt his left ankle in the final minutes.

Asked if he'll be able to play Game 2, Marion said, "Hey, I don't have a choice."

Howard is having an MRI on Thursday to determine if and when he'll return. Bell left the locker room on crutches.

"I felt it pop," he said. "It's pretty painful. But I've got to be optimistic. I want to play. We'll see how it feels in the morning."

Johnson said Howard's absence creates "a big void" on both ends of the court. Besides covering Marion, he's one of Dallas' best attackers. He scored six points in his six minutes; Dallas is 21-0 this season when he scores 20 points.

Although both teams were coming off Game 7 wins Monday night, there was no emotional or physical letdown either way. The track meet everyone expected was off and running from the start.

It was 62-58 at halftime and both teams were making at least half their shots. They were even more accurate in the third quarter, surpassing the Game 1 scoring total from the Eastern Conference final between Miami and Detroit before the fourth even began.

Dallas went ahead for the first time with Harris leading a 13-2 run midway through the third quarter. Then a 13-0 burst at the end of the third and start of the fourth looked like it was going to be the difference, especially with the Mavs still up 114-105 with 3:43 left.

Elias Says
Steve Nash
Steve Nash scored 27 points and handed out 16 assists in the Suns' Game 1 victory at Dallas. Only four other players have had at least 25 points and 15 assists in the first game of an NBA playoff series. Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson each did it twice; the others were Johnny Moore and Kevin Johnson.

• For more Elias Says, Click here

Then, Nash -- the league's two-time MVP -- decided it was time to stop distributing and start scoring. He scored Phoenix's next 10 points on a pair of 3-pointers, a layup and two foul shots.

"I guess, in a way, I tried to be a little more aggressive," said Nash, who had 16 assists, the most by anyone this postseason and one shy of his career high.

Harris, now in Nash's old role of driving the Mavs' up-tempo attack, nearly made Nash's big effort a side note with his shot. But there was still plenty of time for the Suns.

After Diaw's shot, Dallas had a throw-in from near the Phoenix bench, but Marquis Daniels missed Nowitzki and threw the ball out of bounds. The Suns tacked on two more points with 0.2 left on a pair of free throws by Thomas, who scored 17.

While officials took their time deciding how much time was remaining, fans began streaming out and Nowitzki threw the ball at the front of the scorers table in anger.

Jerry Stackhouse scored 16 points for the Mavs and Jason Terry added 15. Daniels had nine and Keith Van Horn, who is likely to see a lot of time this series, scored seven on 3-of-11 shooting. He was 1-of-7 on 3-pointers.

Harris, who had only nine points the two previous games, made eight straight shots in the second half and finished 12-of-17.

Game notes

Trying to save a loose ball in the third quarter, Phoenix's Leandro Barbosa instead spiked it hard into assistant coach Marc Iavaroni. ... Dallas C Erick Dampier started for the second straight time after having coming off the bench since January. Deposed starter DeSagana Diop, who broke his nose Monday night, didn't play. ... Stoudemire is on Phoenix's active roster and was shooting before the game, but was made inactive.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 121 118
FGM-FGA 47-85 (.553) 47-93 (.505)
3PM-3PA 5-15 (.333) 3-16 (.188)
FTM-FTA 22-29 (.759) 21-23 (.913)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-38 18-48
Assists 24 13
Turnovers 15 16
Steals 7 9
Blocks 4 2
Fast Break Points 32 12
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 26 (0/0)
Largest Lead 8 9

Top Performers

Steve Nash Nash
Points: 27
Reb: 5
Ast: 16
Stl: 0
Blk: 0
Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
Points: 25
Reb: 19
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 0