97 - 112 Final
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Nowitzki powers Mavericks past Suns

Dec 5, 2008 - 5:22 AM By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) -- After a slow start, the Dallas Mavericks have found their stride.

Dirk Nowitzki matched his season high with 39 points along with nine rebounds to lead the Mavericks to a 112-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.

The Mavericks have won eight of their last nine after opening the season 2-7 under new coach Rick Carlisle, as they beat a tired Suns team that lost in New Orleans the previous night. The Mavs also won their fourth straight on their home court after losing their first four here.

"I felt like I hadn't been shooting the ball extremely good, only in the low 40 percent, and that's not going to cut it," said Nowitzki, who shot 17-for-25. "But my shot felt good tonight and I got some good looks."

"I thought from start to finish, the energy level was good," Carlisle said. "We were following the game plan and just playing very aggressively. And even when we hit lulls, we kept attacking. It was a good win against a quality team, for sure. We just have to keep building on it."

In addition to Nowitzki's heroics, Dallas received 19 points and six assists from Jason Terry off the bench, while J.J. Barea added a season-high 18 points as he started for the first time.

"I have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff," said Barea, whose previous season best was 15 points in Tuesday's 100-98, come-from-behind win over the Clippers. "(Carlisle) gave me an opportunity a couple of games ago and after that, my confidence has increased. It feels pretty good."

"He adds a different dimension to the team," Carlisle said of Barea. "He's playing well so he deserves to be playing. He was key tonight. He helped get us off to a good start. He played a very important part of the game."

Shawne Williams also established season highs in points with seven and rebounds with 12 in 26 minutes off the bench for Dallas, which outscored the Suns' reserves, 37-32.

"I went back to the old school and went inside to get rebounds and hustle plays," Williams said. "We have enough scorers out there, so I need to find out what we lack and go in there and do those things."

Amare Stoudemire poured in 28 points to lead Phoenix, although he exited the game with 1:10 left in the third quarter when he accumulated his fifth foul. Steve Nash put up 20 points and 10 assists after missing the Suns' last contest with flu-like symptoms.

"He was great," Suns coach Terry Porter said of Stoudemire. "He was aggressive, he got in a little foul trouble, but I thought he had good looks, had some shots at the basket that didn't go down, but I thought he was aggressive and had some good looks."

Phoenix has lost four in a row.

"I just thought our effort wasn't good enough," Nash said. "We didn't play hard enough or with enough discipline defensively and we let them feel good about themselves and they just kept making shots."

"We had so many breakdowns early, on stuff we should know," Porter said. "We've got to have a better consistency level and we're not doing that. We can't have the same mistakes over and over again from game to game. Some of these things now should start to creep in."

Dallas maintained an 87-65 lead with 2:05 left in the third quarter when the Suns went on a 13-1 run to pull to within 88-78 when Boris Diaw sank one from 10 feet 1:10 into the fourth. But the Mavericks responded with a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to go back up by 20 and end any threat of a Phoenix comeback.

"It's one thing to cut a lead down to 10 points, but to not give up a 20-point lead at the half, that's a big concern," Nash said. "We've got to really take more pride in what we're doing individually and collectively and give a better effort."

After opening the game with an 8-2 lead, the Mavs held a 28-24 edge when Barea hit a layup with 2.1 seconds left in the opening quarter and after Goran Dragic turned the ball over making the ensuing inbounds pass, Terry hit a 3-pointer as time expired to put Dallas up by nine.

"That's just discipline and knowing what you're supposed to be doing," Porter said of the turnover. "Goran's not supposed to take the ball out, the point man never takes it out, it's the four-man, so he's trying to take it out and rushed and steps over the line."

Dallas continued to roll in the second quarter, completing a 21-4 run on Terry's jumper with 5:33 remaining in the half to build a 21-point advantage.

"He's been great all year," Carlisle said of Terry. "Tonight was one of his lesser games and he still played really well. He and Dirk had a good feel for each other, they play off each other well and we just need him to continue doing what he's doing."

Phoenix battled back, using a 12-5 run to pull within 16 late in the half before Dallas took a 64-46 lead into the half. Nowitzki, who has averaged 26.4 points and 11.0 rebounds in his previous eight games, scored 24 in the opening half as the Mavs shot 53 percent from the floor.

"Tonight was a struggle from the start," Porter said. "We allowed those guys to pretty much go wherever they wanted to offensively at times and get whatever shot they wanted at times. We just didn't have any resistance at all, defensively. We were never really able to push them off their rhythm offensively, they got whatever they wanted."