Nowtizki scores 16 of his 27 in fourth quarter

DALLAS (AP) -- For three quarters, the Dallas Mavericks were unable to get their offense rolling against the young and athletic Phoenix Suns.

The Mavericks finally got untracked as Dirk Nowitzki scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter despite foul trouble as Dallas rallied for a 102-95 victory over the Suns on Saturday night.

Steve Nash had 27 points and 11 assists to help the Mavericks to improve their league-best record to 52-17.

Dallas trailed by 15 in the first half and scored only 14 points during a listless second quarter while shooting 16.7 percent from the field.

"We didn't have any energy and we just didn't look like we were interested in playing,'' Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "We have so much to play for. I was pretty disappointed. The main thing was they got it together at halftime and didn't let it linger.''

Shawn Marion had 21 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Suns, while Penny Hardaway had a season-high 21 points and Stephon Marbury added 20.

The Mavs trailed by seven entering the fourth quarter, but they went ahead for good, 79-76 with 10:28 left on consecutive 3-pointers by Nowitzki and Walt Williams.

"We were shooting poorly,'' Mavericks forward Eduardo Najera said. "We just didn't play well. Thankfully, Dirk came through to save the day.''

Dallas swingman Michael Finley sat out his second straight game
with a left hamstring injury. Finley, listed as day-to-day, is the
Mavericks' second-leading scorer at 19.7 points per game.

The Mavericks shot 42 percent from the field over the first three quarters, then went 11-for-18 from the field in the final quarter.

Najera helped make up for Finley's absence with 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Suns fell a half-game behind the idle Houston Rockets in the
race for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

"We got stagnant in the third quarter,'' Suns coach Frank
Johnson said. "We started walking the ball up and that's not our
style. We're a quick-hitting team, not a grind-it-out team. We had
a good opportunity here. We let it slip away. We just have to put
it behind us.''

Nowitzki's 3-pointer with 8:30 remaining capped a 13-0 run and
gave the Mavericks an 84-76 advantage.

Dallas went in front 96-84 on Nowitzki's dunk with 1:52 left, and Phoenix was unable to get closer than six points the rest of the way.

"It was a huge win for us,'' Nelson said. "In the second quarter, it looked like (the Suns) were playing harder for the eight spot than we were for the best record in the league. It doesn't make sense. It would seem like we'd have to do better than that.''

Phoenix built a 54-40 halftime lead behind Marion's 15 points
and 12 rebounds and Hardaway's 13 points.

The Mavericks opened the third quarter with a 19-9 run behind Nash's nine points and pulled to 63-59 when Adrian Griffin converted a layup off an assist from Nash.

Nowitzki, who also had 11 rebounds, picked up his fifth foul with 4:57 left in the third quarter and remained on the bench for the rest of the quarter. Phoenix finished the quarter with a 7-2 spurt, capped by Joe Johnson's 20-footer, for a 76-69 lead entering the final quarter.

"We didn't hold up our end of the bargain,'' Hardaway said.

"They made shots and we didn't capitalize.''

Game notes
Dallas needs five victories in its last 13 games to match last season's franchise-best victory total of 57. ...The Suns hit
51 percent of their field goal attempts to 46 percent for the Mavericks. Phoenix is 28-6 when outshooting its opponent. ...Dallas rallied to win from a double-digit deficit for the 10th time this season. ...Nowitzki has scored 20 or more points in 25 of the last 27 games.

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