Suns shine


DALLAS (AP) – The Dallas Mavericks still can’t stop Phoenix’s inside-and-outside playoff combination, even with Amare Stoudemire on the bench this year.

Boris Diaw took over Stoudemire’s starring role from last postseason, scoring 34 points – including a turnaround 7-footer with 0.5 seconds left – to cap a tremendous closing finish, sending the Suns past the Mavs 121-118 Wednesday night in a thrilling, fast-paced start to the Western Conference finals.

Steve Nash remained the outside force, scoring 27 points and adding 16 assists, the most by anyone this postseason and one shy of his career playoff high.

Devin Harris scored a career-high 30 points for Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki had 26 points and 19 rebounds.

The Mavs seemed in control, leading 114-105 with 3:43 left, when Nash began playing like the league’s two-time MVP.

He scored 10 straight points, then fed Shawn Marion on a go-ahead dunk with 43 seconds left.

Harris put Dallas back ahead with a 16-foot jumper with 4.8 seconds left. But after a timeout, Diaw took the inbounds pass, pump-faked defender Jerry Stackhouse, then spun and swished the winning basket from the right side of the lane.

Dallas had a throw-in from near the Phoenix bench, but Marquis Daniels got his signals crossed with Dirk Nowitzki and threw it out of bounds. The Suns tacked on two more points with 0.2 left on a pair of free throws by Tim Thomas.

Officials took several minutes to decide how much time remained when Thomas was fouled. With fans streaming out, Nowitzki threw the ball at the front of the scorers table in anger.

After the shots, he threw the final inbounds pass to the other foul line, where Diaw tipped it away, capping Phoenix’s opening salvo that snatches home-court advantage.

The Suns beat the Mavericks in six games in the second round last season, with Stoudemire and Nash doing most of the damage.

Stoudemire scored between 30 and 40 each of the first three games, then the Mavericks began focusing on him and Nash burned them with between 34 and 48 over the last three games.

AP-ES-05-24-06 2343EDT