Nash Plays Like an MVP, Suns Beat Mavs in Double OT

3-15-07 - Steve Nash played like an MVP down the stretch and Amare Stoudemire had 41 points and 10 rebounds, carrying the Phoenix Suns to a 129-127 double-overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in a tense, thrilling game between the NBA's top teams.

Nash scored 10 points in the final minute of regulation, forcing overtime with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Then Dallas' Jason Terry had five points in the final 48 seconds of the first extra period, including a long 3 with time running out to force another period.

With Stoudemire patrolling the lane, the Suns led throughout the second OT -- but it took a missed 8-footer by Dirk Nowitzki as time expired to secure a win that ended Dallas' 23-game home winning streak and tightened the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Nash had 32 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds, sending Phoenix to its sixth straight win and 11th in 12 games. That moved the Suns within 2 1/2 games of the Mavericks for the best record in the league.

Nowitzki, considered Nash's top challenger in the MVP race, had 30 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. He had eight points and seven rebounds in the third quarter, when Dallas turned what had been a 16-point deficit into a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Suns made their first eight shots and went 10-of-12 in the fourth to make it tight again. Dallas helped set up Nash's fabulous finish by missing four foul shots in the last minute of regulation.

The Mavericks have gone from winning 17 straight to losing consecutive games for the first time since their 0-4 start. They hadn't lost at home since Dec. 7.

And plenty of their fans -- including owner Mark Cuban -- likely will blame this one on officials.

Josh Howard and Erick Dampier fouled out early in the second overtime and Nowitzki got a technical foul for arguing a non-call. Soon after, Jerry Stackhouse had a bigger beef about a missed foul soon after -- but didn't dare say anything.

When Nowitzki's last try missed and he wound up on the ground, a building that had been buzzing all night went eerily silent, as if no one was sure it was really over. Then there were some boos at officials, with Cuban seemingly making a hurried exit.

Stackhouse scored 33 points, his most in three seasons with Dallas. His playing time was extended because starting guard Devin Harris was lost to a neck injury in the first half.

Terry had 27 points, five assists, five rebounds -- and five turnovers, including one in the final half-minute of the second overtime. Howard scored 19 points and Dampier had eight points with 11 rebounds; amazingly, all were on the offensive end.

Leandro Barbosa, who missed a potential winner at the end of the first OT, scored 17 points before fouling out. Shawn Marion had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Raja Bell scored 11 points.

Stoudemire showed how much the Suns could've used him in the Western Conference finals last year by making 16 of 19 shots. The Suns went to him nearly every time in the second overtime, using him for easy baskets and fouls.

As exciting as this game was, the rest of the season could be, too.

The Suns have 18 games left and the Mavs have 19. They meet again April 1 in Phoenix, with Dallas leading the season series 2-1. A Mavs win would give them the tiebreaker.

The top seed in the West is worth much more than bragging rights. In addition to the home-court advantage in every round, there's also a better draw; whichever team doesn't get No. 1 likely will be on course to meet the San Antonio Spurs in the second round.

The other big subplot is the MVP race, which seems to be between reigning two-time winner Nash and his close friend and former teammate in Dallas, Nowitzki.

The game ended with Nash rebounding Nowitzki's miss. Overall, though, both made their share of big plays and had their share of regrettable ones.

There were several 1-on-1 matchups, too, with Nowitzki getting the best of them in the overtimes. Earlier, Nash scooped a left-handed layup around the big German, prompting Nowitzki to tell officials he was elbowed. Nowitzki later smiled as he recommended a technical foul against Nash for complaining about a non-call.

Midway through the fourth, Nowitzki dribbled around Nash and no one else was between him and the basket, so he sped up and threw down a dunk about as hard as he ever does, much to the delight of the biggest crowd of the season, 20,525.


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