PHOENIX (AP)—Michael Finley used to call America West Arena home. He sure found the nets familiar in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Finley scored 31 points, and Dirk Nowitzki hit a 12-footer with 6.8 seconds left to give Dallas a rugged 108-106 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night to square the best-of-seven series 1-1.
“I wanted to go to about six or seven seconds with the shot and take it baseline and spin,” Nowitzki said. “That’s my move. I was fortunate when it left my hand. It didn’t really look great, but it went in.”
But the game belonged mostly to Finley, who shot 5-for-6 on 3-pointers and even defended big Amare Stoudemire for a time, part of the Mavericks’ strategy to switch things up and disrupt the Suns’ high-flying offense.
“Hey, he’s good, and good players win games,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said, “and he won this one.”
Finley was 12-for-18 shooting.
“I just had some open looks at the basket and I got into a nice rhythm offensively,” he said. “My teammates kept finding me and kept leaving me open. I was just making the most of those situations.”
Quentin Richardson’s 3-point attempt for Phoenix bounced off the back rim at the buzzer.
The Suns lost Joe Johnson with 19.7 seconds left in the first half when he was fouled by Jerry Stackhouse on a layup, lost his balance and fell face-first to the floor. He was admitted to a local hospital, and late Wednesday night it was announced he would undergo surgery Thursday to repair a displaced orbital bone. He also suffered a mild concussion. Johnson will miss at least Game 3 on Friday night and, with the surgery, probably will be out longer.
Nowitzki added 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Mavericks bounced back from a 127-102 blowout loss in Game 1.
Erick Dampier, called out publicly by Nowitzki after being outscored by Amare Stoudemire 40-0 in Game 1, had 15 points, 10 in the first quarter, and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“We had a good talk, and I liked the way he responded,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “Basically, he did what we brought him here to do. But we brought him in to do it consistently. Am I happy that he had 15 points and 12 rebounds? Yeah, but I’ll be happier when he strings together a couple of these games.”
It was the first playoff loss for the Suns after five victories and erased the homecourt advantage they had earned with an NBA-best 62-win regular season.
Nowitzki sank two free throws to put Dallas ahead 106-102 with 1:55 to play, then Stoudemire missed a dunk and a layup on consecutive possessions. But Marion blocked Nowitzki’s shot, and Stoudemire dunked on a pick-and-roll feed from Nash to cut it to 106-104 with 50.9 seconds to play.
Jason Terry threw the ball away on the next possession, and Nash’s 18-footer tied it at 106 with 27.4 seconds left. After a timeout, the Mavs got the ball to Nowitzki, who worked his way inside and got the game-winning shot off over Richardson.
On the final sequence, Nash penetrated but was met by Nowitzki, then got the ball to Richardson. He dribbled away from a defender, then let go the 3-pointer that was just long and to the right.
With 19.7 seconds left in the first half, Johnson was fouled hard by Stackhouse on a drive to the basket and fell face-first to the court. He stayed on the floor while he got six stitches to close a cut near his left eye.
Referee Dick Bavetta belatedly called it a flagrant foul. Johnson, looking like a boxer who lost a fight, eventually got to his feet to the cheers of the crowd. He made one of two free throws before leaving the game for good.
The Suns erased Dallas’ 54-46 halftime lead in first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half.
On a 13-2 run, Phoenix took its first lead since the opening minute, 57-56, on Stoudemire’s stuff with 9:36 left in the third. Stoudemire’s tip-in capped the outburst to put Phoenix ahead 59-56.
The Mavericks, who led by as many as 14 in the first half, were scoreless for a 3:50 stretch in the fourth quarter, but the Suns only managed five points during the drought to lead 94-92.
Dampier had called Nowitzki’s remarks “totally stupid,” and coach Johnson met with both of them to end the squabble.
After Wednesday’s game, Nowitzki praised Dampier’s play.
“I don’t know if it was what I said, but he played great tonight,” Nowitzki said. “He was aggressive from the start, on the glass and defensively as well. I’ve said it all season long. Our defense falls with him and gets up with him. If he’s active and a presence in the middle, we’re a different team.”
Dallas shot 64 percent (16-for-25) in the first quarter, compared with 36 percent (9-for-25) for Phoenix. … D’Antoni was presented the NBA coach of the year award before the game by the widow of Cotton Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons, who died of cancer last summer, won the award in 1989. … Joe Johnson has not missed a game in the last three seasons.