for this game

Mavericks blistered by Suns as nine-game winning streak ends

Apr 2, 2007 - 4:36 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- This matchup of the NBA's best teams was no classic. Instead, it was a classic case of the Phoenix Suns needing a win more than the Dallas Mavericks.

Leandro Barbosa scored 29 points and the Suns shot a blistering 65 percent from the field in a 126-104 thrashing of the league-leading Mavericks, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped.

"We expect to play like that the rest of the season and in the playoffs," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "If somebody beats us, then God bless them."

Amare Stoudemire scored 24 points and Steve Nash added 23 and 11 assists for the Suns (55-18), who gained a split of the season series as they became the only team to beat the Mavericks (61-12) twice this season.

"There is not a message," Stoudemire said. "I just think it's a matter of us continuing to improve."

"We never left the hotel," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "This is one of our rare nights where we don't leave the hotel, and when we did get here we weren't focused. We had a poor level of concentration, and they had a lot to do with that.

In perhaps the best game of the NBA campaign, Phoenix scored a thrilling 129-127 double-overtime victory at Dallas on March 14 that saw both teams erase seemingly insurmountable late deficits. On national TV, the teams provided no such drama Sunday.

"We felt like the game slipped away in Dallas," Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki said. "We were up by seven with a minute to go and lost in double overtime, so this was a big game for us. We also wanted to avoid splitting the series. We wanted to win the season series, but we didn't."

Headed for another high-scoring affair, the Suns used a 10-2 run capped by Barbosa's 3-pointer to open a 79-71 lead with 4:02 left in the third quarter.

The Mavericks, who still have an outside shot at 70 wins, closed to 93-88 on a jumper by Devin Harris with 9:39 to play. But Boris Diaw flipped in a basket and Barbosa hit another 3-pointer to double the lead.

Less than a minute later, Nowitzki twisted his ankle as he missed a jumper and took a seat on the bench. Phoenix pulled away as its offense looked unstoppable down the stretch.

"A guy cut me a little bit but there was no call so we kept playing," Nowitzki said. "But it is all right."

Barbosa made 10-of-17 shots, including 4-of-7 from the arc. Stoudemire was 10-of-13 from the floor, Nash 7-of-11 and Shawn Marion 8-of-10 for 20 points.

"Guys pushed the ball and got in the passing lanes," Marion said. "Everybody was rotating and we were making the extra pass tonight. When everybody makes the extra pass, we get open looks and we're going to knock some shots down."

Against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, Phoenix made 46-of-71 shots, including 12-of-21 3-pointers. Its shooting percentage was the best of any team this season.

"They had more energy and hit all their shots," Johnson said. "I don't know when a team shot that well from the field, so let's just give them all the credit."

The Suns realistically cannot catch the Mavericks for the NBA's best record, trailing by six games with nine to play. They were 2 1/2 games behind after their win last month.

"This does not mean we are so much better than Dallas," D'Antoni cautioned. "They have the best record and are going to be the No. 1 seed. I think it will be very competitive and we'll just see what happens in the playoffs."

But Phoenix did move 2 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio in the race for the second-best record in the Western Conference, which would provide home-court advantage in a possible conference semifinals matchup.

"The San Antonio thing is a big deal and we have a hard road trip," D'Antoni said. "That is another reason why we had to take care of business."

Boris Diaw scored 16 points and Raja bell added nine - all on 3-pointers - for the Suns, who held a 50-16 advantage in points in the paint.

"We made a lot of mistakes," said Nowitzki, who managed 21 points on 6-of-18 shooting. "We gave up way too many layups, wide-open treys. They really had us going both ways and whatever we were doing they had an answer for."

Josh Howard scored 28 points, Jerry Stackhouse added 25 and Jason Terry 20 for the Mavericks, who did not play poorly until the last eight minutes. Dallas shot 46 percent (36-of-79) - including 9-of-18 from the arc - and had just one missed free throw and 10 turnovers.

"Your margin for error is slimmer when you play the Suns," Terry said.

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