Dallas wins series 4-2 (Game 3 of 6)

Dallas wins series 4-2

Game 1: Wednesday, May 24th
Game 2: Friday, May 26th
Game 3: Sunday, May 28th
Game 4: Tuesday, May 30th
Game 5: Thursday, June 1st
Game 6: Saturday, June 3rd

Mavericks 95

(60-22, 26-15 away)

Suns 88

(54-28, 31-10 home)

5:30 PM ET, May 28, 2006

US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

1 2 3 4 T
DAL 22 25 25 2395
PHX 25 27 16 2088

Top Performers

Dal: D. Nowitzki 28 Pts, 17 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

PHX: S. Nash 21 Pts, 1 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Blk

Mavs get defensive, take 2-1 series lead over Suns

PHOENIX (AP) -- The first two games of the Western Conference finals between Dallas and Phoenix were all about grace and style.

Daily Dime
Marc Stein
It's hard to picture how the Suns were going to erase a six-point deficit in 80 seconds with the Mavericks playing fantasy basketball, or at least the defense of Avery Johnson's dreams. To claim this 95-88 road score and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals, Dallas didn't merely slow its shorthanded hosts.

The Mavs didn't just harass the Suns into a 36-point second half.

They demoralized them.

• For more of Marc Stein's analysis in the Sunday night Daily Dime, Click here.

Game 3 was about toughness. And when emotions flared Sunday night, the Mavericks proved grittier than the Suns.

Sparked by a first-half shoving match between Dallas guard Jason Terry and Phoenix forward Tim Thomas, the Mavericks defeated Phoenix 95-88 to take a 2-1 lead Sunday night.

Flexing their defensive muscle, the Mavericks limited the NBA's most potent attack to a playoff-low in points. The Mavs overcame an 11-point first-half deficit and regained the home-court advantage they lost in the series opener.

"We just battled for 48 minutes," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "Teams are so evenly matched at this time of year. It comes down to will. This team is very resilient."

The Mavericks are two victories away from the first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.

Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points and 17 rebounds for the Mavs, and Josh Howard added 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 4 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Suns hadn't lost consecutive games since they dropped three in a row to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. They lost their second straight game without Raja Bell, who is out with a strained left calf, and fell to 1-5 without Bell in the regular season and playoffs.

Throughout the playoffs, the Suns have performed best when they play with emotion and energy. They lacked both in Game 3, and Suns point guard Steve Nash took his teammates to task for it.

"We're out there with our shoulders slumped, and we're not smiling," said Nash, who led the Suns with 21 points and seven assists. "We're not fighting. We're not, you know, playing with the necessary fire it takes to win. I think that's the most disappointing thing is just the way we're going out there and playing."

Tempers flared late in the first half when Howard was called for a flagrant foul for hitting Thomas in the face as the Phoenix forward drove to the basket. As Thomas walked to the foul line, he and Terry exchanged shoves, and both players were assessed technicals.

Terry had been suspended for one game for throwing a punch in the second round against San Antonio.

"My plan tonight was to come out extremely aggressive," Terry said.

Thomas made both free throws to give Phoenix a 52-42 lead with 2:05 left in the half. But that would be the high point for the Suns. After the scuffle, the Mavericks scored the last five points of the quarter to cut it to 52-47 at halftime.

Dallas kept rolling after intermission, outscoring the Suns 10-2 to take a 57-54 lead. The Mavericks cited their amped-up defense as the turning point.

Elias Says
Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks played the final 17:01 of their Game 3 win in Phoenix without a turnover -- the second-longest stretch without a turnover to close a game during the 2006 NBA playoffs. Back on April 26, Phoenix played turnover-free ball over the last 18:52 in a loss to the Lakers.

• For more Elias Says, Click here

"We came out in the second half and really put together some stops, which helped us get a lead and take momentum," Terry said.

Dallas has been known as an offensive powerhouse in recent years, but Johnson has brought a greater respect for defense. It showed Sunday night, when the Mavs consistently forced the Suns into a half-court game.

"I know it's a cliche, but our defense really did beat our offense," Nowitzki said.

The Mavericks outscored the Suns 15-2 in a seven-minute stretch after the technicals were called. A three-pointer by Nash ended the spurt, but Phoenix managed only 16 points in the third quarter, a series low.

"We really resorted to a lot of one-on-one play," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We kept battling, but we just didn't get the thing done. We didn't play real smart."

Dallas took a 72-68 lead into the fourth quarter and appeared ready to reclaim home-court advantage. But the Suns tied it at 72 on a jumper by Diaw and Shawn Marion's dunk on a missed lay-up by Leandro Barbosa.

The Mavericks answered with an 11-2 run, capped by Keith Van Horn's three-point play to take an 83-74 lead with 6:12 left.

With Dallas leading 90-84 and less than two minutes to play, Nowitzki appeared to miss the rim as the shot clock expired. The Mavericks grabbed the rebound and were allowed to keep possession even as the Suns' bench exploded in protest.

The Suns were done. Even with a sellout crowd exhorting them, they never threatened to stage a late rally like they did in Game 1.

"I don't know if fatigue is a factor for us, but we're not running," Nash said. "It was a little frustrating to see us not get the extra effort tonight.

"I mean, we had a good first half in many respects, but in the second half it's one thing not to play great; it's another thing for everyone to get quiet and to kind of give in," Nash said.

Game notes

Bell could return to the lineup for Game 4 Tuesday night, coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Raja feels better today than he did yesterday," D'Antoni said before Game 3. "He's not ready to go today. He'll continue to be day to day. I think it will be hard but as soon as he's ready he's going to get out there." ... The Suns fell to 2-6 in the conference finals (0-4 at home) over the last two seasons. Phoenix has dropped one home game in each of the first three rounds. ... Diaw has scored 20 or more points in three straight games for the first time in his career. He's averaging 26.3 points per game in the series. ... The Mavericks are 23-0 when Howard scores at least 20 points. He recorded his first double-double of this postseason.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 95 88
FGM-FGA 39-95 (.411) 35-82 (.427)
3PM-3PA 4-15 (.267) 7-19 (.368)
FTM-FTA 13-17 (.765) 11-13 (.846)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 19-48 12-45
Assists 16 13
Turnovers 6 13
Steals 8 0
Blocks 4 9
Fast Break Points 14 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 16 (1/1) 16 (1/0)
Largest Lead 9 11

Top Performers

Dirk Nowitzki Nowitzki
Points: 28
Reb: 17
Ast: 5
Stl: 1
Blk: 2
Steve Nash Nash
Points: 21
Reb: 1
Ast: 7
Stl: 0
Blk: 1