Dirk Nowitzki matched his season high with 39 points and new starter J.J. Barea provided quite a spark in the fourth quarter, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 112-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
German-born Nowitzki had 37 points through three quarters and the Mavs seemed to be comfortably headed to victory when the Suns began to make things interesting. But just when they got within 10, Barea — a 1.8m backup point guard-turned-co-starter alongside Jason Kidd — helped Dallas regain control by single-handedly guiding a 10-0 run. Soon after, he nailed a three-pointer that pushed the lead to 23 and punctuated it with a loud scream drowned out by a roar from fans already on their feet.
Barea finished with 18 points and Jason Terry continued his recent roll off the bench with 19 points as the Mavs won for the eighth time in nine games, pushing them to two games over .500 for the first time this season. It also was their fourth straight home win, evening their record in Dallas at 4-4. They’ve got a good chance to stretch both streaks with the next five games at home.
Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal returned to the lineup for Phoenix after missing the two previous games, Nash because of flu-like symptoms that made him lose some weight and O’Neal because of sore knees and coach Terry Porter’s plan to avoid using him in back-to-back games. Their presence wasn’t enough, though, as the Suns lost their fourth straight.
Nash, whom Porter was expecting to be fired up by his return to Dallas, had 20 points and 10 assists without playing the fourth quarter.
■ SPURS 108, NUGGETS 91
At Denver, Tony Parker scored 22 points, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili each added 21 and San Antonio took advantage of a rare poor performance by Chauncey Billups since he arrived in Denver to beat the Nuggets.
The Nuggets had won 12 of 15 since acquiring Billups from Detroit in the Allen Iverson trade.
Billups, the former University of Colorado star, had enjoyed a wonderful homecoming up to this point, helping the franchise get off to its best start since the 1976-1977 team behind David Thompson won 13 of its first 19.