Tuesday , May , 30 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Suns hope to even conference finals with Mavs

(Sports Network) – The Phoenix Suns attempt to knot the Western Conference
finals at two games apiece, as they welcome the Dallas Mavericks tonight to
US Airways Center for Game 4 of the best-of-seven set.

Game 5 of this series is scheduled for Thursday at American Airlines Center.

On Sunday, All-Star Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as
No. 4 Dallas captured the third game of the conference finals with a 95-88 win
over the second-seeded Suns at US Airways Center to take a 2-1 in the series.

Josh Howard scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in Game 3’s victory.
Howard made a pivotal steal and converted it into a layup with 2:09 to play,
giving Dallas a six- point lead. Jason Terry dropped in 19 points for the
Mavericks, who are 5-2 on the road in the playoffs.

Reigning MVP Steve Nash led the Suns with 21 points and seven assists in the
loss, while Boris Diaw scored 20 points. Leandro Barbosa netted 17 points and
Tim Thomas contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds in defeat.

The Suns, who defeated Dallas in Game 1 121-118, have played Games 2 and 3
without guard Raja Bell, who hurt his left calf in the series opener. Bell,
who may be the Suns best perimeter defender, is averaging 15.3 points, 2.9
rebounds and 2.1 assists in 14 playoff games for the Suns. He is doubtful for
tonight’s contest.

Phoenix, which is 6-3 at home in this year’s playoffs, has lost two straight
and four of its last seven Game 4s in the postseason, while Dallas has won
four straight five Game 4s.

This is the second time that these teams have met in the postseason. Last
year, the Suns knocked out the Mavericks in six games in the conference
semifinals.

The road to the West finals has been a wild one for the Mavericks. They swept
No. 5 Memphis in the first round and then defeated the top-seeded and
defending world champion Spurs in seven games in the semis.

The Mavericks have advanced to the conference finals just two other times in
franchise history and have never been to the NBA Finals. They lost to the
Lakers in seven games in 1988 and San Antonio in six in 2003.

The Suns, who lost in five to San Antonio in last year’s conference finals,
were pushed to the limit in the first two rounds of this year’s playoffs.
They came back from a 3-1 deficit and defeated Kobe Bryant and the seventh-
seeded Lakers in seven contests during the opening round, and knocked out the
sixth-seeded Clippers in seven in the conference semifinals.

Phoenix, which won the Pacific Division during the regular season, has made
it to the conference finals for the eighth time in franchise history.
The Suns, who also made it to this round in 1976, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1990,
1993 and 2005, are 2-5 in the conference finals. They defeated Golden State in
seven games in the 1976 West finals and also eliminated Seattle in seven in
1993.

DAL PHO