A stirring comeback might have given the Phoenix Suns just the boost they needed. A win over a longtime nemesis could have the same effect.
The Dallas Mavericks, though, handled the Suns this past weekend but might not get Dirk Nowitzki back from injury when they try to continue their recent dominance in the series Friday night.
Phoenix (16-30) won its first two games under interim coach Lindsey Hunter before suffering back-to-back losses, including a 110-95 defeat in Dallas on Sunday. The Suns appeared to be heading for another loss Wednesday when they fell behind by 13 points in the fourth quarter to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Instead, Phoenix rallied for a 92-86 victory in former point guard Steve Nash's return to Arizona. Michael Beasley had 10 of his season-high 27 points in the final period and Luis Scola had eight of his 12.
"We came together. You know that has really been our problem this whole season, the end of the third and fourth quarter," Beasley said. "We just told each other we do not want to lose. ? It just was not an option for us. We went out there and executed where we needed to execute."
The Suns haven't executed as well against the Mavericks lately, losing 10 of the past 11 matchups and two this season. After trailing by as many as 20 points, Phoenix got within five early in the fourth quarter Sunday but Dallas' lead ballooned back up to 19 with 6:05 remaining.
Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each had 18 points in that game but Nowitzki was scratched from Thursday's 100-97 loss at Golden State because of a strained right adductor. He said he suffered the injury late in Dallas' loss in Portland on Tuesday.
Nowitzki added that he was doubtful for Friday's game but said he doesn't think the injury is related to his knee surgery, which held him out until Dec. 23.
"It's just Father Time, bro," Nowitzki said. "Stuff happens. I never pulled a muscle in my whole career. There's always a first one."
Dallas (19-27) came back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter Thursday to tie that game at 92 with 4:15 remaining but never claimed the lead. The Mavericks failed to reach 100 points for the first time in 10 games despite 25 from O.J. Mayo, 22 from Vince Carter and 18 from Shawn Marion, who also had a season-high 17 rebounds.
If Nowitzki has to sit out again, the Mavericks could manage without him. With its star forward recovering from knee surgery, Dallas won 97-94 in Phoenix on Dec. 6.
Mayo, who had a team-best 23 points, hit the go-ahead, 21-foot jumper with 35 seconds left, then Carter and Darren Collison combined to make eight free throws.
Phoenix earned its most recent win over Dallas on March 8 at U.S. Airways Center. Jared Dudley's 18 points led the way in that 96-94 victory.
This might be a good opportunity for the Suns to earn another win as Dallas has dropped four of six and is 7-18 away from home this season.