Mavs Outshine Suns, West
You can talk about the Mavs and Spurs all you want when it comes to great NBA matchups, but there is no better game the league has to offer right now than Mavs-Suns. These two teams run up and down the floor at one another, wearing out even the fan at home with the constant ebbs and flows of the game. And talk about even. These teams have split the last 20 games they've played. If they were winning titles, it might be the best matchup in NBA history. Well, following a few eras of Lakers-Celtics anyway.
Tonight marked Mavs-Suns '06-'07 chapter two. The Mavs took the first matchup with both teams struggling out of the season gate, but part of that may have been Amare Stoudemire still getting his legs under him after missing all of last season due to microfracture surgery on a knee.
But tonight, the Mavs were shorthanded with Jerry Stackhouse, their leading bench producer, out. The Suns were at full strength. And, if you have watched them lately, so is Stoudemire. The Mavs took the Suns best shot. After running out to a 13-point third period lead, the Mavs fell prey to the Phoenix offense and found themselves down nine in the fourth. But a sure rally and a true jumper from Dirk Nowitzki in the final seconds clinched victory.
The Suns had been considered the only team hotter than the Mavs having won 18 of 20. The Mavs put that to rest and now have an eight game win streak and have won 22 of 25 after their 0-4 start.
The Mavs overall defensive numbers didn't look great in this game, but they got key stops in bunches to hold the Suns under 100 points and get the win. Credit Jason Terry for stepping up with 35 points and 8 assists. Kudos to Nowitzki for his 27 points and 10 rebounds and for stepping up in the fourth the way a superstar should. But Josh Howard was the lynchpin to this team's success and is quickly becoming that each and every game.
First, Howard gives you solid offensive numbers, such as his 16 points and 12 rebounds tonight. But he continues to slow the opposition's offensive threats with his hard nosed defense. True, he was known as a good defender. But, this year, he may have become one of the NBA's best. On this night, he held Shawn Marion to 4 of 12 shooting and even took shifts on Stoudemire when the Dallas centers were uanble to defend him. Now, Nash and Stoudemire got their numbers, but Marion's struggles are key because he has been as big an offensive thorn in the Mavs side as any of the Suns the last two plus seasons.
So with Howard continuning to grow as a player, this team just gets better. Might be better than last season's conference champion. One thing's for sure. As of right now, they have reestablished themselves as the West's best.