- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

DALLAS (AP) - The Phoenix Suns might as well get started on their offseason plans. Jason Kidd made sure of it.

Kidd had 19 points, a season-high 20 assists and a major career milestone _ all in just three quarters _ sending Dallas to a 140-116 victory over Phoenix on Sunday, virtually assuring the Mavericks of grabbing no worse than the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Dallas owns a four-game lead with five games left. Because the Mavs won the season series, they hold the tiebreaker over the Suns, so Phoenix must finish 5-0 and Dallas 0-5 for the teams to trade places in the standings.

Put another way, any Mavs win or Suns loss clinches a ninth straight postseason trip for Dallas and ends a streak of four straight playoff trips for Phoenix.

Now the Mavericks can get on with what they’ve been saying is their primary goal _ moving up to the seventh spot to avoid a first-round matchup against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. They’ll get a great chance in their next game, when Utah, currently seeded seventh, visits Dallas on Wednesday night.

The Suns’ playoff chances dimmed when they lost to the Mavs at home on March 10, but an 8-3 surge that included wins over Utah and Denver got them back into it. Dallas helped by losing three of its last five, including an ugly outing in Memphis on Friday night.

The higher stakes apparently brought out the best in the Mavericks.

With Phoenix letting Dallas put up open jumpers, the Mavs scored 39 points in the first quarter and 42 in the second. The Suns rarely challenged on 3-pointers and Dallas wound up hitting 10-of-13 by the break.

The 81 points at halftime was easily the most of the season for the Mavericks, and it included a 24-3 burst after Phoenix got within 46-45. Dallas capped the half in style, too, with Josh Howard taking an inbounds pass from Kidd and flinging it through the rim 71 feet away as time expired. The Suns didn’t guard him on that one, either.

Kidd’s 14th assist gave him 10,142 for his career, passing Magic Johnson for No. 3 on the NBA’s career list. Among those who gave him a standing ovation was broadcaster Mark Jackson, who is second with 10,334.

Kidd also set Mavs records for first-half assists (16) and assists in a regulation game. He made six of eight shots, mixing a trio of 3-pointers with some nice low post muscle moves against Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa.

Dirk Nowitzki made 10 of 12 shots and scored 28 points for Dallas, marking his 20th straight game with at least 20 points. Howard had 24 points after missing the Memphis game with a flare-up of his pesky ankle problem. Having two days off before facing the Jazz should help him remain in the lineup.

Jason Terry hit his first four 3-point tries and scored 18 points. Brandon Bass added 14 points and J.J. Barea had 12.

Phoenix’s Shaquille O’Neal dominated in the early minutes, scoring points and drawing fouls at will. But once it turned it a track race between jump shooters, his presence was muted. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.

Grant Hill and Barbosa propped up the Suns’ offense when things were close, with Hill hitting his first six shots and Barbosa starting 5-of-6. Hill finished with 23 points and Barbosa 24. Nash had 12 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Mavericks hit 64 percent of their shots in the first half and were still at 64 percent through three quarters. The deep reserves weren’t as accurate, dropping them to 60 percent, but Dallas still finished with its most points, assists (34) and 3-pointers (15) of the season.

The Mavs won their third in four games and improved to 11-1 at home since the All-Star break. Four of their final five games are at home, including the next two.

Notes:@ The previous Sunday, Dallas scored only 74 the entire game against Cleveland. This time, the Mavs hit 100 with 4:55 left in the third quarter. … Kidd is now at 10,148 career assists. John Stockton is the record holder with 15,806. … O’Neal’s pregame warmup included pulling a cart that he estimated weighed 1,000 pounds, and doing deep knee-bends with a conditioning coach sitting on his shoulders. … Lucky fan Fisher Floyd swished a free throw, 3-pointer and half-court shot, winning $3,250 in gift cards to a furniture store and applause from the wide-eyed Mavs bench. He responded by blowing them kisses.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide