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Like old days, Marion dialing long distance

DALLAS -- Shawn Marion, with that uniquely funky release, is letting it fly again from long range.

A prolific 3-point shooter in his younger years, Marion had all but eliminated that aspect of his game during his tenure in Dallas. With his coach’s encouragement, Marion has morphed into a 3-point threat again.

Marion is likely to set a new Mavs era personal high for 3-pointers in a season this week. It’d be fitting if it happened Saturday night in Phoenix, where Marion once drilled 141 treys in a season and made at least 80 five straight years while running and gunning with Steve Nash.

By comparison, Marion has made a total of only 72 3-pointers since joining the Mavs in the summer of 2009. He’s 21-of-62 this season, only two shy of his Dallas high for 3s made and 11 off his high here for long-range attempts, hitting a respectable 33.9 percent.

“Because I’m really shooting them now,” said Marion, who attempted a total of only 52 3s during his first two seasons in Dallas. “When you shoot one every 12 or 15 games, it don’t matter. You can’t have a great percentage unless you’re really shooting it consistently.

“I had to adjust my game here in order to win the championship, and I did that. Now I can go back to doing a lot of things that I’m capable of doing.”

The Mavs need Marion to be a 3-point threat to maximize the potential of their new backcourt. If defenders want to sag off of him to clog up the penetration lanes for Monta Ellis, in particular, Marion has to be able to make them pay.

“I’ve encouraged him to shoot that shot and work on it and commit to it, and he’s worked,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s worked at it. When you put the work in and you stick to the process, good things happen, and he’s hit a lot of timely ones over the last month, month and a half. He knows that it’s a situation where it’s within the system, within the flow, you’ve got the shot, you look, you step in, you shoot it.

“He’s not out there just hunting shots. He’s taking the ones that are given to him.”

Every 3-pointer Marion has made this season has been assisted. Ellis has assisted on eight of them and had hockey assists (the pass that leads to the assist) on another three. Jose Calderon has assisted on five of them and had a hockey assist on another.

Marion’s game-winning shot the Nov. 20 victory over the Houston Rockets is an excellent example of why his ability to knock down 3s is so important to the Mavs. Ellis penetrated and drew a crowd around the basket before whipping a pass to a wide-open Marion in the left corner.

“When we’re able to get in there and penetrate, it opens the floor up and we’re able to get nice, open shots,” said Marion, a career 33.1 percent 3-point shooter who peaked at 39.3 percent in 2000-01. “Those are the best ones. When you’re able to catch them in stride and step into them, a lot of times they’re going to go in.”

Marion is taking and making more of those shots than he has in years.