Mavs, Suns Struggling Toward Rematch


Thursday, November 9th 2006, 6:15 am
By: News On 6


It is definitely a Western Conference finals rematch. It sure doesn't look like a preview. For now, the Mavericks-Suns game Thursday night in Phoenix is nothing more than a chance for two struggling teams with high expectations to find something positive in what has been a dismal start to the season.

Dallas has followed its first appearance in the NBA finals with the worst start in franchise history, falling to 0-4 with a 103-85 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

They are the first team since the 2001-02 Philadelphia 76ers to start out with four straight losses after going to the finals.

``We are disappointed. It is a tough start for us,'' Dallas coach Avery Johnson said. ``We aren't playing good defense for long stretches of the game and we aren't playing good offense. We are just playing in waves. We are playing 26 minutes of a 48-minute game, and that is not very good basketball.''

Phoenix has dropped three straight and fell to 1-4 and last place in the Pacific Division with a 111-106 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The Suns were done in again by their weak interior defense, allowing Tim Duncan to get 26 points and 14 rebounds and Fabricio Oberto to have the first double-double of his NBA career with 22 points on 11-for-11 shooting and 10 boards.

It's the Suns' worst start since losing 13 straight to open the 1996-97 season.

``We had a great shot at winning this game,'' Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said Wednesday. ``This was definitely a disappointing loss for our team. I consider tonight to be the first of many baby steps to be taken throughout the season.''

In other games, it was: Washington 117, Indiana 91; Orlando 88, Seattle 87; Toronto 106, Philadelphia 104; New Jersey 96, Utah 89; Boston 110, Charlotte 108 in overtime; Houston 97, Milwaukee 93; New York 109, Denver 107; Portland 101, the Los Angeles Lakers 90; and Sacramento 99, Detroit 86.

At San Antonio, Steve Nash had 20 points and 11 assists for the Suns. Amare Stoudemire managed only 16 minutes because of foul trouble but was impressive while he was out there, scoring 15 points and shooting 8-of-18.

Knee injuries limited Stoudemire to only three games last season, when Phoenix repeated as Pacific Division champions before losing to Dallas in six games in the West finals. If he regains his health and his role in the offense, the Suns are considered a legitimate championship threat.

So are the Mavs, who made a number of offseason moves to upgrade a team that won 60 games. It looks as if it will take a little while for all the new pieces to fit.

``We're just not cohesive yet as a team and we're not hitting our open shots,'' owner Mark Cuban said. ``We just haven't gotten off to a good start, but there's 78 more games and that's all that matters. You never like to lose, but I'm not worried about this team.''

Nets 96, Jazz 89

At East Rutherford, N.J., Vince Carter scored 30 points and almost single-handedly held off Utah's fourth-quarter run, leading New Jersey to a victory that knocked the Jazz from the unbeaten ranks.

Utah's first loss in five games left the New Orleans Hornets (4-0) as the NBA's only remaining undefeated team a little more than a week into the season.

Knicks 109, Nuggets 107

At Denver, Jamal Crawford stole the ball from Eduardo Najera and made a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left as New York erased a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Crawford scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth for the Knicks, whose parent company, Cablevision, revealed Wednesday that former coach Larry Brown got $18.5 million from the team in his settlement with the team.

Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points for the Nuggets, who learned that Kenyon Martin will need surgery on his right knee.

Trail Blazers 101, Lakers 90

Zach Randolph had 36 points and 10 rebounds to lead Portland to its fifth straight home victory over the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant scored 32 points for Los Angeles (4-2).

The Blazers were without Brandon Roy, the sixth overall pick in the June draft, who was out with a heel injury.

Kings 99, Pistons 86

At Sacramento, Calif., Kevin Martin equaled his career high with 30 points and Corliss Williamson scored 13 of his 15 in the second half against his former team.

Chauncey Billups scored 25 points and Richard Hamilton had 20 for Detroit, which has dropped the first two games of a four-game West Coast road trip.

Raptors 106, 76ers 104

At Toronto, Chris Bosh made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left and finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds.

Allen Iverson had 35 points and 10 assists for the Sixers, who have dropped two straight after winning their first three games of the season. Samuel Dalembert had 18 rebounds and 13 points before fouling out with 57 seconds left.

Wizards 117, Pacers 91

At Washington, Gilbert Arenas scored 40 points in 32 minutes to lead Washington over Indiana, who played without injured All-Star Jermaine O'Neal.

Magic 88, Sonics 87

At Orlando, Fla., Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 points, including a fallaway 20-footer with 0.4 seconds left, as the Magic dropped the SuperSonics to 1-4.

Rockets 97, Bucks 93

At Milwaukee, Tracy McGrady scored 32 points, Yao Ming added 23, and the All-Star duo teamed to lead a big third-quarter spurt.

Michael Redd scored 34 for Milwaukee, topping the 30-point mark for the third time in five games.

Celtics 110, Bobcats 108, OT

At Boston, Delonte West made a jumper at the overtime buzzer, Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak each scored 35 points, and the Celtics earned their first victory of the season.

Ryan Gomes added his first career triple-double as the Celtics kept the Bobcats winless in Boston. The Bobcats' Emeka Okafor continued his strong comeback after playing in only 26 games last season with 28 points and a career-high 18 rebounds.