How it happened: Dirk Nowitzki had another one of those brilliant games that seemed to come so effortlessly before his late December knee sprain. He hit eight of his first nine shots and never really slowed down, shooting over the top of any defender the Suns tried to throw at him. Nowitzki was deadly from the 3-point arc (3-of-3) as he finished with 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting, plus 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
He got just enough help as four others also scored in double figures as the Mavs missed the hottest player this month in J.J. Barea, who was out with a fever. Down the stretch, the Mavericks held off every late charge by the game Phoenix Suns, who are in a dogfight for a playoff spot.
"Proud of the guys," Nowitzki said. "Big way to battle down the stretch."
Jason Terry had a nice night with 16 points as he went 3-of-5 from the arc on an otherwise dismal night from longe range as a team (10-of-27). Jason Kidd followed up his 6-of-7 game from 3-point range Wednesday night to go 1-of-6 Thursday. But, without Barea and with Roddy Beaubois getting no significant time in the fourth quarter as he picked up five fouls in 19 minutes, Kidd played 41 minutes and had 12 assists.
Tyson Chandler had 12 points and 12 boards, including a big follow of his own miss late in the game. Shawn Marion had 12 points and eight rebounds and Peja Stojakovic had 10 points.
Beaubois started at shooting guard in his second game back from a broken left foot. He had a couple of highlight plays early on and finished with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. He wasn't heard from much in the second half, but it's going to take some time for him to get up to speed and mesh with his veteran teammates that took this one home down the stretch.
Still, his speed and how it forces defenses to react his clear.
Now comes the interesting part with 26 games left in the regular season the trade deadline coming up on Thursday. Are these the Mavs that will head into the playoffs or does owner Mark Cuban have other plans? The front office would have loved to have had more time to gauge the team with Stojakovic and Beaubois, but they have to be impressed with how the team is again feeding off one another and playing together.
The Mavs have scored at least 100 points in 12 of their last 13 games, which makes up for a defense that is improving, but is not back at the same intensity level as earlier in the season prior to the injuries to Nowitzki and Caron Butler.
If the Mavs remain intact beyond Thursday, it would seem to make sense that they will only get better as they play together longer. With Stojakovic and Beaubois in the starting lineup, and one would think it will remain that way when Dallas gets back in action next Wednesday at home against Utah, the Mavs have two starters who weren't even in uniform a couple weeks ago.
They touted their depth back in training camp even when it seemed a bit suspect. Now they legitimately go 10 deep and that does not include Ian Mahinmi, who has at times garnered minutes ahead of Brendan Haywood, who turned in his second consecutive solid outing Thursday. Brian Cardinal is a pretty good 12th man to have on the roster.
The final 26 will come fast and furious. The Western Conference is an odd bunch with the Spurs out in front, the Lakers confounding everyone and the Mavs mostly flying under the radar because of a playoff history filled with anguish.
What it means: The Mavs (40-16) head into a well-deserved All-Star break having won 13 of 14 games. Their lone hiccup was the buzzer-beater by Aaron Afflalo at Denver last week. Dallas joined Boston, Miami and San Antonio as the NBA's only team with 40 wins.
Play of the game: Somehow Dirk Nowitzki got the shot off. Posting up Mickael Pietrus outside of the paint, Nowitzki eludes Pietrus' stabs for the ball, spins toward the baseline and with Pietrus basically body-to-body, Nowitzki got off a one-legged leaner that dropped for a 98-92 lead with 4:18 to play.
Stat of the night: With a couple of late buckets, Tyson Chandler reached double digits to give him his 15th double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) of the season while extending Dallas' streak of having at least five players score in double figures to 13 consecutive games.