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Mavs rallied but couldn't hold the lead late

DALLAS (AP) -- Steve Nash made the strange walk to the visitors'
locker room, relieved at having his first game against the Dallas
Mavericks out of the way.

And thrilled with how it turned out.

Nash scored 17 points and had 18 assists, many setting up Amare
Stoudemire's 34 points, leading the Phoenix Suns past the Dallas
Mavericks 107-101 on Tuesday night.

"I can't think of a more emotional game that I've had than this
one," Nash said. "I didn't have any tears, but I was definitely
nervous. I think it's just natural. There were so many memories
here."

Nash's assists were the most this season in the NBA, topping the
17 he had in an overtime loss at Cleveland last Wednesday. It also
was one shy of his career best. The only downer was that he had the
wrong kind of triple-double -- points, assists and turnovers. He
gave the ball away 10 times, four in the third quarter, after doing
so just 18 times in the first six games this season.

"They're trying to get used to me and I'm trying to get used to
them -- as you can see by my 10 turnovers," Nash said.

Although Nash broke into the league with Phoenix, he's best
known for the last six years in Dallas.

With him pushing the offense, the Mavs became one of the NBA's
top teams and he became one of the most popular players in town. He
was a free agent last summer and wanted to stay, but couldn't
resist when Phoenix offered $60 million guaranteed in July.

The locals didn't hold a grudge. "Thanks Steve" and "Welcome
Back Nash" were among the signs waived by fans and there were
plenty of kids wearing his No. 13 Dallas jerseys, including one
youngster holding a poster that said, "Nash has been to my
house."

"It's overwhelming to see that kind of support," Nash said.

After a nice ovation during pregame introductions, Nash made his
way along the Dallas bench shaking hands, slapping backs and
embracing coaches Don Nelson and Del Harris and former teammate
Michael Finley.

Then Nash made himself right at home, scoring or assisting on 12
of Phoenix's first 17 baskets. He opened the second half with a
3-pointer and another jumper and soon after the Suns were up by 15.

But the Mavericks rallied to tie and even led by five early in
the fourth quarter, despite losing center Erick Dampier (strained
hip) and backup point guard Jason Terry (sprained ankle) in the
first half and being without Dirk Nowitzki for about 10 crucial
minutes after he picked up his fifth foul with 3:39 left in the
third quarter.

Nowitzki tied it at 93 with 4:28 left, then Stoudemire put
Phoenix up for good with a driving layup. Nash fed Shawn Marion for
a jumper that stretched the lead and the Suns were off on a 10-2
run that sealed the victory.

Stoudemire scored his most points of the season and four shy of
his career best. It was a nice way to spend his 22nd birthday, but
he knew this was Nash's night.

"I still have a lot to learn, that's why I'm glad Steve Nash is
here to teach us the ropes," Stoudemire said. "Steve's one of the
best in the league as far as getting you the ball in the right
spot."

Marion and Quentin Richardson each scored 18 points. Marion had
14 rebounds and Richardson 13 as the Suns capitalized on Dampier's
absence to pull down 10 more rebounds than Dallas.

The Mavericks lost at home for the first time this season on
their fourth try. They won their first 12 at home last season and
finished with a league-best 36 home wins.

Nowitzki, who went to dinner with good buddy Nash the night
before, finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds. He never fouled
out but was so frustrated that he got a technical foul in the
closing minutes, sending Nash to the line for his final point.

"I'm used to playing with him, but we've got to move on and put
it behind us," Nowitzki said. "I guess we've got to get used to
him in a purple and orange uniform."

Jerry Stackhouse, who had 28 points each of the last two games,
scored 21, including buzzer-beaters at the end of the second and
third quarters.

The most promising sign for Dallas was seeing the new leader of
its offense, rookie Devin Harris, have career highs with 15 points
and five steals, plus five assists. He also played his most minutes
(36), primarily because of Terry's absence.

Game notes
Dampier hopes to play in Dallas' next game Friday night.
... Phoenix was without backup guard Leandro Barbosa (sprained
ankle). He's day-to-day. ... The Suns last won in Dallas on Jan.
13, 2001, ending a streak of seven straight losses. ... The Mavs
have allowed 100 points in consecutive games after not doing so the
first seven.