Dirk Nowitzki matched his season high with 39 points and new starter JJ Barea provided quite a spark in the fourth quarter, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 112-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
|Brandon Bass of the Mavericks dunks the ball [EPA]
German-born Nowitzki had 37 points through three quarters and Dallas seemed to be comfortably headed to victory when the Suns began to make things interesting.
But just when they got within 10, Barea, a 5-foot-11 backup point guard-turned-co-starter alongside Jason Kidd, helped Dallas regain control by single-handedly guiding a 10-0 run.
Soon after, he nailed a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 23 and punctuated it with a loud scream drowned out by a roar from fans already on their feet.
Barea finished with 18 points, and Jason Terry continued his recent roll off the bench with 19 points as the Mavericks won for the eighth time in nine games, pushing them to two games over .500 for the first time this season.
It also was their fourth straight home win, evening their record in Dallas at 4-4.
They now have a good opportunity to stretch both streaks with the next five games at home.
Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal returned to the line-up for Phoenix after missing the two previous games, Nash because of flu-like symptoms that cost him several pounds and O'Neal because of sore knees and coach Terry Porter's plan to avoid using him in back-to-back games.
Their presence wasn't enough, though, as the Suns lost their fourth straight.
Nash, whom Porter was expecting to be fired up by his return to Dallas, had 20 points and 10 assists without playing the fourth quarter.
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 28 points but got his fifth foul late in the third quarter and was not a factor after that.
Spurs 108, Nuggets 91
In Denver, Tony Parker scored 22 points, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili each added 21 and San Antonio took advantage of a rare poor performance by Chauncey Billups since he arrived in Denver to beat the Nuggets.
The Nuggets had won 12 of 15 since acquiring Billups from Detroit in the Allen Iverson trade.
Billups, the former University of Colorado star, had enjoyed a wonderful homecoming up to this point, helping the franchise get off to its best start since the 1976-77 team behind David Thompson won 13 of its first 19.
In the first half, Billups scored just 3 points on 1-of-7 shooting and he doled a single assist.
Billups scored nine points in the fourth quarter to finish with 12.
Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 16 points.