<
>

Suns, Nash fade down the stretch in Game 2

DALLAS -- Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns didn't have any
fourth-quarter magic left Friday night.

After rallying from a nine-point deficit in the final 3:43 to
knock off the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference
finals Wednesday night, the Suns faded down the stretch in a 105-98
loss in Game 2.

The series is now tied at a game apiece. Game 3 will be played
in Phoenix on Sunday night.

"We had shots to win," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I
thought we could have put fear into them and we didn't knock them
down. And give them credit, they came down and executed. We just
didn't quite it done."

Phoenix was held to 21 points in the fourth quarter and could
have used some scoring from the two-time MVP.

Nash, who keyed the Phoenix rally in Game 1 with 10 points and
four assists in the final four minutes, did not take a shot in the
second half until making a basket with 3.7 seconds left.

"In hindsight, I would have tried to be a little more
aggressive," Nash said. "The time never really came where I got
the opportunities to be aggressive. I just have to be conscientious
next time to learn from what happened."

He only had one assist in the final quarter and finished with 16
points and 11 assists.

Nash had 27 points and 16 assists in the Suns' 121-118 victory
in Game 1.

After Nash scored 14 points in the first half, Dallas shifted
its defensive focus onto him. The Mavericks threw multiple
defenders at him to get the ball out of Nash's hands.

"They doubled him and he kicked to the open guys," D'Antoni
said. "We could have said, 'Don't double him and let him shoot,'
but they didn't listen."

Nash didn't get much help in the backcourt, which was missing
Raja Bell because on an injured left calf. Leandro Barbosa started
in Bell's place, but scored just eight points on 3-of-15 shooting.

Barbosa couldn't repeat the performance he had in Game 6 of
Suns' first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Barbosa
scored 22 points in place of Bell -- who was suspended for that
game.

"I thought he played well," Shawn Marion said. "He didn't
shoot the ball as well as he wanted to. But he did a lot of good
things on the floor."

Marion hit a 3-pointer to put the Suns ahead 82-78 with 10:45
left. But the Suns were just 6-of-17 from the field the rest of the
way.

After Marion's 3-pointer, Phoenix scored only two points over
the next 4:42 as Dallas seized control of the game. Dirk Nowitzki's
jumper with 6:17 left capped a 12-2 run and gave the Mavericks a
90-84 lead.

It appeared briefly that Phoenix was going to have a repeat
performance of its late-game rally in Game 1.

Tim Thomas hit a 3-pointer to bring Phoenix within 90-87. After
Boris Diaw's basket cut Dallas' lead to 91-89, Thomas missed a
3-pointer that could have given the Suns the lead.

Jerry Stackhouse responded with a three-point play and Josh
Howard followed with a basket to put Dallas ahead 96-89 with 2:45
left.

The Suns could get no closer than four the rest of the way.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win and that's all you can ask
for," Thomas said. "We wanted to be greedy and get two. But
pretty much our job is done."

Phoenix is now 1-10 in Game 2s since 1999. The Suns have lost
all three Game 2s in this year's playoffs after winning Game 1.

They also haven't cracked 100 in any Game 2 this postseason.

"I don't know if there's a reason for that," Diaw said of the
Game 2 woes. "I know the other team tries to get it going in Game
2. Of course it's tough to try and play after a win. I think we've
been all right in Game 3s so I'm not worried."