04/01/2007 Mavericks @ Phoenix
PHOENIX, April 1 (AP) -- If Phoenix plays the Dallas Mavericks a few weeks from now in the Western Conference finals, confidence should be no problem for the Suns.
Not with the way they handled the Mavericks on Sunday.
With Leandro Barbosa leading a parade of big scorers with 29 points, the Suns beat the Mavericks for the second time in 18 days, 126-104.
Amare Stoudemire added 24 points and Steve Nash had 23 points and 11 assists as the Suns snapped Dallas' nine-game winning streak and finished the season series 2-2. After a scoreless first quarter, Shawn Marion had 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He also frustrated Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki most of the afternoon.
"That's about as good as we can play, Phoenix coach Mike D'Antonisaid.
The Suns shot 65 percent (46-of-71), the highest in the NBA this season and a record for any team at US Airways Center, formerly America West Arena.
Phoenix shot 86 percent in the fourth quarter (13-for-15), 4-of-4 on 3s.
"We were getting good looks, Marion said. "Everybody was rotating, making the extra pass. When everybody makes the extra pass, you get open looks and you're going to knock down some shots.
Stoudemire, who scored 41 in the Suns' come-from-behind 129-127 double-overtime victory at Dallas on March 14, made 10 of 13 shots Sunday. In the last two games against the Mavericks, Stoudemire was 26-of-32 from the field.
"It's just tough because my jumper is falling now, so it makes it harder for the defense to figure out what I'm going to do, Stoudemire said. "I'm either going to shoot the jumper, drive around them or pass it out for a 3. It's pretty much pick your poison with myself and also for the team.
Even the hard-to-please Nash seemed satisfied for a change.
"Sometimes to a fault we've played to the level of our competition. Fortunately it's good on nights like tonight, he said. "Tonight I give us high marks for energy and consistency. When we play well, no one's going to defend us well.
Nowitzki scored 21 but was just 6-of-18 shooting.
"They had a good strategy, a good game plan, Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. "They executed, and we never left the hotel.
Boris Diaw had 16 points for Phoenix, and a spectacular behind-the-back bounce pass to Stoudemire for a layup.
"This doesn't mean we're so much better than Dallas, no, D'Antoni said. "Dallas has got the best record, and they're going to be the No. 1 seed, but I think it's going to be very competitive and we'll see what happens.
The game was close until Phoenix took the lead for good in the third quarter, then turned it into a runaway in the fourth. The 126 points were the most Dallas has allowed this season in a game that didn't go into overtime. The only time the Mavericks allowed more in any game was in that double-overtime loss to Phoenix.
The Mavericks were without center Erick Dampier, who strained his right shoulder in Friday night's home victory over New York.
After making their first seven 3-pointers, the Mavericks went 2-for-11. The Suns, meanwhile, made 12 of 21 3s, going 6-of-7 in the second half.
"We need a practice, Johnson said. "We haven't practiced in a while because of our schedule, a really good hard practice. We need a good practice to clean up a few things, and it showed today.
The tight, high-speed first half ended with Phoenix on top 60-56. Dallas never led after that.
Phoenix outscored the Mavs 14-6 over the final 2+ minutes of the first half, then got the first two baskets of the third quarter to go up 64-56 on Stoudemire's layup. Dallas came back to tie it at 69 after Terry's 18-footer, but Phoenix followed with a 10-2 run, with Raja Bell and Barbosa sinking consecutive 3s to put the Suns up 79-71 with 4:02 left in the period.
With Nash out for his usual rest, Phoenix boosted the lead to 85-75 on Barbosa's driving layup with 1:19 left in the third. The Suns led 89-82 entering the fourth.
Phoenix went up 102-89 with a 9-2 spurt midway through the fourth quarter. During that run, Nowitzki limped off the court after missing a 3-pointer, then landing with his left foot on Marion's left foot. Nowitzki returned to the game moments later, but didn't stay long as Phoenix blew it open.
Nowitzki said after the game he was fine.
"I thought he undercut me a little bit, but it doesn't matter at that point, he said. "There was no foul called so we kept on playing.
Phoenix outscored the Mavericks 37-22 in the fourth quarter, 66-48 in the second half.
Notes: The previous high field goal percentage this season was .646 for Charlotte against Atlanta on Jan. 20. Phoenix shot .648. ... With their 55th victory, the Suns topped their total of last season. ... The Mavericks are expected to sign 44-year-old Kevin Willis to a 10-day contract on Monday. ... DeSagana Diop started in place of Dampier and went scoreless with three rebounds in 26+ minutes. ... Dallas is 61-8 since beginning the season 0-4 start. Phoenix is 54-14 since a 1-4 start. ... The Suns are 5-4 since that earlier victory at Dallas, but each of the wins has been by at least 18 points.