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Nowitzki nails game-winning shot as Mavericks top Suns

Dec 29, 2006 - 7:35 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Once again, Dirk Nowitzki stood tall against the Phoenix Suns.

In an exciting contest with a playoff atmosphere, Nowitzki nailed the go-ahead jumper with one second remaining and Jason Terry scored 35 points as the Dallas Mavericks overcame a bad shooting night to post a 101-99 victory over the Suns.

Nowitzki had 27 points for the Mavericks, who shot just 41 percent (35-of-85) from the field but took advantage of the Suns' 21 turnovers to record their eighth straight win.

"We played well down the stretch defensively and got some big stops," Nowitzki said. "Offensively, Josh (Howard) made some big baskets. (Terry) was amazing. He was aggressive from outside, and inside he was great. So, it was an overall great effort."

Despite shooting just 8-of-20 from the floor, Nowitzki was the catalyst down the stretch for Dallas, which used its star forward's heroics to eliminate Phoenix in six games in last spring's Western Conference finals.

"It's no secret. This is a rivalry," Terry said. "It's been that way since I've gotten here. This is my third season. I don't see it changing soon."

With his team trailing, 99-97, Suns guard Steve Nash fed Shawn Marion for a wide-open layup to tie the game with six seconds remaining. But after a timeout, the 7-0 Nowitzki posted up the 6-7 Marion and drained a fadeaway jumper from the right wing to make it 101-99.

"I think Shawn thought I was going to hold it a little longer when there were still a couple of seconds left," Nowitzki said. "I kind of quick-shot it. I think I surprised him a little bit. As soon as I got it, I didn't really hesitate and it went up, and I'm happy we got the win."

"I was just trying to make it hard on him, challenge his shot," Marion said. "He is seven feet tall. That was a tough shot. He shot it real fast, I contested it. I mean, so what?"

Dallas coach Avery Johnson knew who the ball was going to on the final play.

"He was the only option. We didn't have a Plan B, maybe we will work on that next," Johnson said. "We were trying to get him the ball. He had a good setup. Last year, I don't think he would catch that ball. He set up to get open and, fortunately, it worked for us."

On the ensuing possession, Amare Stoudemire missed a desperation shot from the arc as time expired.

Terry shot 12-of-20 from the floor and 5-of-8 from the arc, attacking the paint at will to collapse the defense.

"I was just being aggressive, getting to the basket early on, getting to the free-throw line," Terry said. "Scorers like to get to the free-throw line early to get a rhythm early in the game. I knew going into (Thursday's game) I was going to be extremely aggressive. We moved the ball around all night."

The Suns went on an impressive second-half run to get back in the game. Trailing by seven points with 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, Phoenix went on a 20-3 run to take a 86-78 lead with 10 minutes left in the fourth, capped by Jumaine Jones' 3-pointer. Jones and Leandro Barbosa scored six points apiece during the spurt.

Stoudemire had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Suns, who shot 52 percent (37-of-72). Phoenix has lost two of its last three contests after a franchise-record 15-game winning streak.