Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) dunks the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the first half as teammate Erick Dampier (25) looks on in game 4 of the second-round NBA playoff game in Dallas, Sunday, May 15, 2005. Phoenix forward Quentin Richardson (3) is on the left.
AP Photo/Donna McWilliam
DALLAS Dirk Nowitzki finally had the kind of shooting night the Dallas Mavericks had been waiting for, and Josh Howard did more than pitch in.
That was too much for the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash, the MVP who couldn't beat his former team by himself no matter how much he scored.
The Mavericks defeated the Suns 119-109 in Game 4 on Sunday night to even the Western Conference semifinal series 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night in Phoenix.
Nash scored a playoff career-high 48 points, including 23 in the third quarter when he scored 16 straight for the Suns, but he also committed nine turnovers.
Howard kept going to the basket, scoring on layups, drawing fouls and grabbing offensive rebounds. He finished with 29 points, a career playoff high, with 10 rebounds six of them on the offensive end while Nowitzki finally snapped out of his postseason shooting slump with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Nowitzki entered the game shooting just 38 percent in the playoffs his season average was 46 percent and was 16-of-42 the last two games.
While Nash made 20 of 28 shots, the Mavs finally were able to neutralize Amare Stoudemire, who had scored at least 30 points in three straight games with plenty of rim-rattling dunks including seven Friday night when the Suns won 119-102 in Dallas.
In Game 4, Stoudemire had more fouls (5) than field goals (3), none of them dunks. He scored nine of his 15 points on free throws.
Just about every time he touched the ball, Stoudemire was surrounded by at least two Mavericks.
Still, Stoudemire managed to make a lucky shot, throwing up a ball that went in after Nowitzki was called for a foul, though the replay showed it was actually Jason Terry that hacked the 22-year-old center.
While Stoudemire missed the free throw, the Suns got the ball back and Quentin Richardson drove for a slam dunk that made it 95-86. But Phoenix wouldn't get any closer in the final 10 minutes.
Just more than a minute later, Stoudemire picked up his fifth foul when Howard drove for a reserve layup and it was 99-86.
Erick Dampier, the foul-plagued Mavericks center criticized by Nowitzki earlier in the series, had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Coach Avery Johnson had pledged that Dampier would keep playing, even if he got in early foul trouble. That wasn't even a concern until after halftime, when the Mavericks had a 66-50 lead.
Notes: Nash's playoff high, set with Dallas, was 31 points. The most points he had scored in his first season with Phoenix was 33 points. ... His 48 were the most scored against Dallas in the postseason. Bonzi Wells had 46 for Portland two years ago. ... In the first half, the Mavericks got 14 of their 26 field goals on layups and dunks five by Dampier, six by Howard.
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