With pain, Marion gains praise and a 'W'

DALLAS -- With about 33 minutes until tip-off Thursday night, Shawn Marion went to coach Rick Carlisle and told him he's in.

It didn't matter that the bruised ribs on his left side made it difficult to raise his left arm, or that he was still trying to recover from a pulled muscle in that same area from three weeks ago that he never made public, or that he rated the pain radiating from his ribs a 9 1/2 out of 10 before the game against the New York Knicks.

Peja Stojakovic was already scratched for a second consecutive game with a stiff neck. Tender, aching ribs, Marion decided, weren't enough to keep him out one night after the Dallas Mavericks disappeared late in New Orleans and their coach called them out as being "soft."

"I can walk," Marion said before he and the Mavs pasted the Knicks, 127-109. "I'm going to fight through it."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Marion went crashing into cameramen along the baseline midway through the third quarter of the demoralizing 93-92 loss at New Orleans. Hornets forward Marco Belinelli shoved Marion from behind has he glided in for a breakaway layup. Marion said he thinks a cameraman's knee caught him square in the ribs. X-rays showed no breaks, but Marion as he made his way to the team bus, Marion was moving slowly and at the time seemed to be a long shot at best to play Thursday.

(Belinelli was initially hit with a flagrant foul, penalty one, but the league on Thursday upgraded it to a penalty two and a fined Belinelli $10,000).

"That just shows you some of his toughness," Jason Terry said. "He wasn't able to finish the game last night, but for him to be able to heal up as quick as he did and come out there and have the performance he did on both ends of the floor, it was tremendous. But, he's that type of player. When you can't play, you don't think you can go and then still go out there and tough it out, it means a lot."

Armed with Advil and under-the-jersey padding, Marion did more than fight through it. He led the Mavs with energy and hustle in a must-have game two nights before the Los Angeles Lakers come to town with designs on closing the gap on the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Marion piled on 22 points, nearly doubling his average and his largest output since Jan. 19 against the Lakers. He grabbed eight rebounds, six coming on swooping stabs on the offensive glass, and he added a couple of assists. Marion had 12 points and seven rebounds at halftime, pacing Dallas to a season-best 72-point first half and a 21-point lead.

He said his decision to play wasn't some macho statement or the bold move a leader -- even though that's exactly what he's become in his second season with Dallas -- hoping to infuse a locker room that had perhaps grown a bit complacent through winning 20 of 23 games entering Thursday night.

"I'm just trying to do what I can to help this team the best way I can," Marion said. "It's in a variety of ways. That's all I can do."

He did all he could do on the defensive end against Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony. Had Marion sat this one out, and no one could have faulted him if he had, the task of countering Carmelo would have fallen to 6-5 DeShawn Stevenson, 6-4 and much older Jason Kidd or 6-9 and much younger Corey Brewer, who didn't get off the bench the night before in New Orleans.

"It was great news for us [that Marion was playing because this is a matchup nightmare with Carmelo," Carlisle said. "He's a one-of-a-kind scorer in the in the small forward position. He's so dynamic and you've got to have a similar type player to match up with him."

At 6-foot-7 and long arms, Marion is the Mavs', for lack of a better phrase, defensive stopper. One night after Anthony torched Memphis for 31 points and hit the game-winning shot, he struggled to score 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting. At the half, when the game was all but decided, Anthony had barely shown up, making just 3-of-10 shots.

Marion will be equally important Saturday against perhaps the league's most dangerous and versatile scorer, Kobe Bryant.

"He was phenomenal," Nowitzki said. "He gutted it out and really took the challenge on one of the best perimeter scorers we got in this game and he played him well. On the other end he finished around the basket, just played with a lot of energy. It was really fun to watch."