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Stoudemire, Nash help Suns past Mavericks

Feb 15, 2008 - 7:46 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Amare Stoudemire scored 26 points and Steve Nash added 24 and 13 assists as the Phoenix Suns posted a 109-97 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.

Speedy Leandro Barbosa also poured in 26 points off the bench as the Suns finished the first half with the second-best record in the Western Conference at 37-16.

The win was impressive for Phoenix, which should be even stronger once newly acquired center Shaquille O'Neal joins the club for the first game back after the All-Star break against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 20.

"For all the little bumps we have had, it is good to be where we are at but we have been better the last couple of years," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We haven't had a long streak yet and for whatever reason we haven't been real sharp. Now I have four days off that I can smile and think about Shaq."

While the Suns prepare for an interesting second half, the same possibly could be said for the Mavericks, who are awaiting to see if the window of getting Jason Kidd is still open.

On Wednesday, Dallas reportedly had a deal in the works that would have sent Devean George and four others to New Jersey in exchange for Kidd and Malik Allen.

But George threw a monkey wrench into the mix by blocking the trade with the use of an obscure no-trade clause to keep his "early Bird rights."

Boris Diaw's layup snapped a 69-69 tie and sparked an aggressive 14-6 surge that bridged the third and fourth quarters to give the Suns an 83-75 lead on Stoudemire's 14-footer at the 10:41 mark.

"It was a battle out there from the beginning," Stoudemire said. "We had a balance attack and everyone was aggressive and took what the defense gave them."

Eddie Jones' third 3-pointer of the evening brought the Mavericks within 93-91 with 4:20 remaining. But Diaw hit a jumper at the top of the key and Stoudemire completed a three-point play to create a 98-91 cushion.

"We had good defense late and made some big shots and at the same time we hit some big baskets," Diaw said. "That is a good example of how we have to finish games. Defense is always the key because eventually you are going to miss shots. but tonight we hit them at the right time."

Jason Terry carried the load in the first half, pouring in 19 points on 8-of-11 shots to help Dallas create a 53-52 advantage at the break.

"They turned it up a bit and took us out of what we wanted to do," Terry said. "We have been questioned all year about our mental toughness but I think it takes a lot of mental toughness to come out and fight the way we did."

All-Star Dirk Nowitzki had 36 points and 12 boards for the Mavs, who shot 40 percent (36-of-90) from the field.

"It was tough with the injuries and playing four games in five nights, plus a tough back-to-back," Nowitzki said. "We didn't have enough left to get over the top."

Dallas has now lost five of its last six on the road.

"They just had another gear and we couldn't get there," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We battled through three quarters and there was a stretch there in the fourth when we were decent but we just didn't have that finishing kick."