Final - 2OT
  for this game

Nash, Stoudemire spark Suns' double-overtime victory over Mavericks

Mar 15, 2007 - 7:03 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- Steve Nash needed some extra time to make his case for a third straight MVP award. But Amare Stoudemire might have been the most valuable player this time around.

Nash had 32 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds and Stoudemire collected 41 points and 10 rebounds as the Phoenix Suns posted a wild 129-127 double-overtime victory over Dallas Mavericks in a battle of Western Conference powers.

The Suns (50-14) have posted a 11-1 record since the All-Star break to pull within 2 1/2 games of the Mavericks (52-11) for first place in the West and the NBA's best record. The teams will meet once more in the regular season on April 1.

"We know it's possible (catching Dallas)," Nash said. "We really need to continue to try to improve. I think we made a lot of mistakes tonight and didn't play hard enough for long stretches so we've got a lot of improving to do. I think that takes presidence over continually chasing the Mavericks.

"They're having a great year. It's possible to catch them, but if we worry about trying to improve every night, we've got a chance. We'll keep playing each game with the attitude that we're going to try to get better and we'll see what happens in the last 19 games."

Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki emphasized the race will most likely go down to the wire.

"It's been a race all year long, up a couple of games, if your up three games in the NBA, that's one week," Nowitzki said. "That's nothing, so it's been a race all along. We're going to keep on working to get better and we'll go from there. We see them one more time in early April at their place. It's obviously a big game. We'd love to get the tiebreaker, so it's going to be a big game down there."

Stoudemire took over the game, scoring 13 points in the two extra periods, and shooting 16-of-19 from the floor. The All-Star forward showed that he has fully recovered from microfracture knee surgery that was supposed to prevent him from showing his rare combination of power and athleticism.

"We had the mentality that we were going to win and we did," Stoudemire said. "A few plays here and there and we got the bounces, got some turnovers and scored. Our defense was real good tonight. That's what we did to come back from a (16-point) deficit. We came in here and beat them on their own court. We know we can do it and we know we're capable of doing it."

On Wednesday, Stoudemire was virtually unstoppable around the rim, connecting on 12 consecutive field goals - six shy of Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record.

But the Suns would not have extended the game if it were not for Nash, who scored 10 points in the final 57 seconds of regulation, including a 3-pointer to tie the game, 111-111, with three seconds left.

It was the second look at a tying 3-pointer after Suns forward Shawn Marion snared his first miss and found Nash open again on the right wing.

"We pushed it in transition and tried to get a look at it - got a pretty nice look," Nash said. "It was a little outside the line but just a little short. Luckily, Shawn got an offensive rebound and got it back to me, and I was able to queue it up again."

Phoenix benefited from an uncharacteristic miscue by MVP candidate Nowitzki, who made only 1-of-2 free throws with 13 seconds remaining in regulation to make it 111-108, setting up Nash's heroics.

"Obviously, any game, I'd love to have these big free throws," Nowitzki said. "I'm very confident in my free-throw shooting and I feel like I can make them all, so I was a little flat or something. I'll take a look at the film at what happened. Making a free throw, and the end of a game, is where you want the ball, in my hands and I have to just make it."

Nowitzki, who nailed a clinching jumper when the squads met on December 28, also missed a possible game-winning jumper at the end of regulation and a game-tying shot at the end of the second overtime.

But Phoenix had a chance to put Dallas away in the first overtime. Trailing, 120-115, the Mavericks scored the final five points of the period, including a deep 3-pointer by Jason Terry with Nash right in his face to tie the game with five seconds left.

Suns guard Leandro Barbosa then missed a driving layup as time expired, sending the game to the final extra period. But Dallas could not get over the hump in the second overtime thanks to Nash and company.

"We had last second shots on both sides, and it didn't go for them this time," Nash said. "Who knows why one team wins and one team doesn't? It's almost like both teams deserved to win."

The two-time MVP was 11-of-25 from the field, including 2-of-6 from the arc and Marion added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who shot 56 percent (49-of-88) from the field and 7-of-17 on 3-pointers.

Jerry Stackhouse scored a season-high 33 points and Nowitzki added 30, 16 rebounds and six assists for the Mavericks, who now have lost two straight after winning 52 of 57 games. Dallas also had its franchise-record 23-game home winning streak snapped.

"We just have to look forward from here, not really look back," Stackhouse said. "We should really come out with an anger on Friday (at home vs. Boston) because we don't like to lose one in a row, we definitely don't like to lose two in a row, so I definitely feel like somebody's going to be ready Friday."

Nowitzki admitted that the team will benefit from the intensity of Wednesday's game.

"Every close game is good practice for the playoffs," Nowitzki said. "It gets us ready. We (usually) find plays to win this kind of game so far this season and now we lost one, so we can't get our heads down now. Phoenix is closing the gap a little bit and we'd love to get that first seed. There's a lot of games left."