by Lang Whitaker

• This is pretty much a must-win for Phoenix, right? They’re three and a half behind Dallas for the best record, and they’ve gotta win this one to give themselves a chance. Not sure if that’s how Mike D’Antoni will try and sell this one to his guys, but he should.

• Mike Tirico is in the house. Stop following me, please.

• Lisa Salters is rocking crushed purple velvet.

• Oh no! Dallas is in their weird green Sean John uniforms. Not a good omen.

• Amare Stoudemire has two parts shaved into the back of his head, just behind his left ear.

• I am not writing down every basket, especially considering we’re 30 seconds in and it’s 2-2.

• Steve Javie is running the show. Uh-oh. D’Antoni’s getting the first T, I say.

• Amare rips Dirk under the rim and slams one home. Next time down he manages to sink a basket, and one. 9-4 Phoenix. Dirk hasn’t taken a shot yet.

• Two fouls on Amare and we’re not even 4 minutes in. Both teams are a little frenetic early on.

• Phoenix is basically using three power forwards (Kurt Thomas, Diaw and Marion). Are they pounding it inside? Of course not.

• Dirk drives the lane and blasts right through Nash, who goes down hard. Nash needs a haircut again. Right now he looks sort of like John the Stutterer from the Howard Stern Show.

• First timeout. 6:52, 14-8 Phoenix.

• Love the Gilbert commercials with the self-portrait of himself on there, except the drawing looks more like Junk Yard Dawg than Gilbert Arenas.

Hey Gil, we know you’re wacky and all, but can we all please move on from the fact that nobody drafted you in the first round? Impossible is getting you to stop talking about it.

• Dirk’s getting the D-Wade calls early on.

• Jerry Stackhouse is guarding the vapors of Leandro Barbosa. Not a good matchup for the Mavs, obviously.

• Nash for three. Timeout Dallas, down 23-12.

• I love watching Nash play and just focusing on his head. He’s always looking left and right, left and right. Never looks down at the ball at all. Coaches always teach you that but it’s harder than it sounds. Nash is amazing at this.

• Jon Barry’s a better announcer than I suspected. He quickly points out that Dallas is switching every pick, creating fantastic mismatches for the Suns. Bill Walton just fired up a bowl, I think.

• Does Steve Nash dribble all the way underneath the rim more than any other PG in the League?

• Phoenix came to play. Up 25-14.

• Could Phoenix score 40 in the first quarter? Dallas seems like they’re sleepwalking out there. Jerry Stackhouse is the only Mav able to get any points. Is this 2001?

• Jason Terry drives the lane and shoots a layup off the bottom of the rim. Austin Croshere storms in lets the rebound bounce off his hands and out of bounds. That’s how they’re rolling thus far.

• In the time it took me to type that previous sentence, Raja Bell went coast to coast and nailed a layup.

• First quarter is done. Phoenix leads 32-18, though it feels more like 62-18. Dirk is 0-2, Howard’s 1-4, Terry’s 1-3. Dallas is 5-18 from the floor while Phoenix is 14-21.

• If Dallas keeps this up, do they get labeled big game chokers? I mean, they did blow the NBA Finals last year, didn’t they?

• Love the Orlando Magic/NBA Cares commercial were they’re helping build a house and Dwight Howard is wearing a Redd Foxx t-shirt.

• Dirk gets a patented jumper, finally. 32-20. Dirk is frigging awesome. Phoenix has done a nice job doubling him early and getting the ball out of his hands, though.

• Captain Barbosa is straight killing Dallas, driving past whomever they put out there on him.

• Devin Harris drives and is down under the basket. On the replay, we see him catch an elbow behind the ear from James Jones. First thing James Jones has hit in months.

• Harris wanders off to the locker room. Mark Cuban waslk in front of him sprinkling $100 bills in his path.

• Take it back! Take back what you said about James! James Jones nails a three. 39-27.

• Dirk’s goatee looks like a straw broom someone taped on his chin without him knowing about it.

• Timeout Dallas, Phoenix up 42-29. And Nash hasn’t even been in the game.

• After the timeout they play Avery Johnson’s audio from the Dallas huddle, and it sound like Little Richard saying: “Eghghghghghghghghhg egegh eghehah.” If they ever make a real film adaptation of A Prayer For Owen Meany, Avery Johnson should do the voice.

• Jim Jones is Baaaallling! Three for he. He’s got 9 of Phoenix’s last 11.

• Dallas makes a run and cuts it to 49-38. 4:44 to go in the half. Dallas gets it to 49-40, then Nash drives, threads a needle to Marion, who whips it to Amare, who gets fouled. 51-40.

• Dirk. Turning into a good game. Nobody’s guarding anyone out there.

• A Stackhouse layup makes it 53-44. Bell misses a three. Dirk misses a fadeaway. Bell drains a three from the same spot he just missed from. Back to 12.

• Howard hits a jumper, then Dirk backs Marion down and hits a turnaround. 56-48, Phoenix.

• Nash gets horizontal in the air and throws in a jumper off the glass on the way down. Jason Terry wets a three on the other end. 58-51, Phoenix. Half’s almost over and Phoenix is just trying to hang on. Dallas is finally rolling, and the crowd is really into it. Dallas is 54 percent from the floor this quarter.

• Dallas ends the half with a completely improbable alley-oop from Jason Terry to Jerry Stackhouse. Phoenix leads 60-53 at the half. I need a drink.

• Back. It took Dallas a while but they started to click toward the end of the second quarter. Phoenix seemed to start relying on their jumpers toward the end there. Especially with Devin Harris out, Phoenix should be going to the hoop on every single play.

• They’re saying Devin Harris suffered a “neck strain.”

• Back to back turnovers to start the second half, then Amare gets a layup and misses a free throw.

• Erick Dampier gets swatted, grabs the rebound and dunks hard, then does a pull-up on the rim for a technical foul. Nobody knows why.
• Nash drives the lane and throws a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass to the top of the key to Diaw. He misses the shot, but that was amazing.

• Next time down Nash goes baseline and throws a left-handed bounce pass all the way across the baseline to the far corner. Doesn’t lead to a basket, but another ridiculous dish.

• Greg Buckner! Three point play, and all of a sudden it’s 65-60.

• Dirk waits for a Nash double team that never comes and then drains a long two. 65-62.

• Josh Howard has one move, a little crossover dribble where he ends up going left and pulls up. It works. 65-64.

• Howard guards Nash and forces a miss. Howard comes back and drives at Diaw and gets a foul call. Makes the first to tie the game. Misses the second but runs down the rebound in the corner. Does his same move from the corner and makes a jumper and gets fouled. Makes it. Dallas goes up 68-65 on a 4-point possession.

• Marion gets a dunk, then Nash flips an alley-oop to Amare. Just like that, Phoenix is ahead 69-68.

• Dampier gets a follow dunk, then Jason Terry gets a wide-open three (Nash fell down trying to draw a charge and nobody rotated over). Dallas is up 73-69 with 5:52 left in the third. Phoenix looks exhausted.

• During a Quizno’s commercial, an attractive woman says, “It’s not lacking any meat…and that’s what real women need!” I feel dirty immediately afterwards.

• Amare booms one, then Jason Terry goes right around Steve Nash for two. Can’t he do that on every play?

• Nash gets solo’d against Erick Dampier and tries to shoot over him. Somehow they get matched up on the other end, too, and Dampier nearly swallows him. Next time down, Dampier tries his best to go around Amare but ends up getting blocked and then knocked over. Avery Johnson subs him out, and Dampier looks like he’s going to die getting off the floor. Then the refs decide he can’t come out until the next dead ball, and Dampier stumbles back out.

• Barea! That’s Juan Jose Barea! to you. He check in with 3:28 to go. Barbosa rips a three on him right away. Stackhouse answers. Nash misses a three. Josh Howard gets a two. Dallas goes ahead 84-75, and for the first time in about three weeks, the Phoenix Suns have to call a timeout. Where’s the energy, Phoenix? Dallas is outhustling them all over the floor. The only thing they’re doing wrong right now is wearing green uniforms.

• The big question here, I suppose, is can Dallas outscore Phoenix for the last 14 minutes. I’m not sure they can.

• Phoenix returns without Nash. They turn it right over.

• Dallas gets ahead 86-76, then Barea! drives the lane and flips it out to Stackhouse who nails a three. Then Barea! turns it over. Com on, Barea!

• Jon Barry asks Bill Walton if he ever got a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. Walton is briefly, and I mean briefly, speechless.

• Third quarter ends with Dallas up 91-76. Dallas outscored them 38-16 in the third. Maybe they won’t have to outscore them in the fourth. Quick look at the box score: Stack and Dirk each have 21. Howard has 18. Dirk has 9 boards. Nash has 14 and 9. Dallas has 38 rebounds to Phoenix’s 20. Phoenix has 5 blocked shots. Everything else is pretty much even.

• I’m wearing my Bynum Brigade shirt for this game, by the way.

• Raja nails a two to make it 92-80. Nash goes one-on-one with Dirk, breaks his ankles and nails a jumper. Dallas is going slow now, running halfcourt offense each possession. Amare gets a hook shot to make it 94-84 with 9:30 left in the game. Phoenix is beating them in the halfcourt all of a sudden, and Dallas just looks discombobulated all of a sudden.

• This is when the great teams, like I wrote about yesterday, execute you to death.

• I can’t believe Rajon Rondo isn’t in those Kia Rondo car commercials. They could show him bricking jump shots or something.

• As Jon Barry talks about how Phoenix’s defense is terrible, the Suns force a 24-second violation on Dallas. Even worse, it was out of a timeout. Diaw gets a layup. 94-86.

• Amare’s nailing his midrange jumpers tonight. 96-88.

• Dallas finally starts going through Dirk. He draws consecutive double-teams and gets it to Jason Terry for two buckets.

• Amare picks a ball off the floor and gets hacked by two guys. Somehow he flings the ball off the glass and in. Makes the free throw. 99-91 with 7:16 left.

• Dirk! He drives the lane and tomahawks the ball, and it ricochets off Amare Stoudemire’s head. John Barry calls it an “MVP dunk,” and he’s exactly right.

• Nash blindsides Josh Howard on a pick and gets called for an offensive foul.

• Bill Walton just used the word “untenable.”

• Nash drives and gets the bucket, and one. Nash hasn’t shot many free throws at all tonight, which either means he isn’t driving and creating contact enough or the refs sucks. Depends where you live.

• I think I’d be more afraid of a woman basketball coach than a man basketball coach. I’ve never had a woman coach me. The men I had would get mad and yell and stuff, but it never really felt like they were going to snap. Some of those woman coaches they show in clips…I’d be genuinely scared they’re about to attack me. I’m just saying…

• ESPN does a graphic showing how Steve Nash scans his head back and forth. Are they reading my notes?

• Dirk dribbles out of a double team and throws a pass all the way across to Stack for a three. MVP.

• Next time down, Howard hands to Dirk in the elbow. Phoenix doubles, Stackhouse releases and Dirk flips a perfect pass to him for a layup. MVP.

• Dallas posts up Stackhouse for some reason. They end up getting a bricked three from Howard on the play. Why wasn’t Dirk involved? MVP.

• Suns down 8, 3:14 to go. Timeout. Dirk has to win the MVP this year, doesn’t he? Dallas looks horrible every time he’s not involved with on offense. How do stop him right now? And Phoenix’s halfcourt offense has dried up. The way they’ve played this fourth quarter, in a mostly halfcourt game, just reminds me of why I picked Dallas to win it all.

• Mavs back to Dirk, Suns single him. Marion forces a miss. Amare hits a 12-footer. 5 point game!

• Terry wets a two from the wing. Nash goes one on one against Dirk. Tries to get a call, doesn’t, misses a layup. Dampier elbows Barbosa in the chest and Barbosa flies all the way to Ft. Worth.

• 108-101, 1:20 left. Phoenix takes a timeout for an inbounds play.

• Knowing Sly Stallone probably uses HGH ruins those Rocky DVD commercials.

• Out of the TO, Phoenix. Nash misses a long two. Terrible play. Dirk misses a wide-open 15-footer and fouls Nash on the rebound. 57.2 left. Nash makes both. 5 point game.

• Dirk gets Nash on him on a switch, but Jason Terry fires up a wild three over Marion. Misses, but Dirk gets the rebound and gets fouled. Makes one free throw and puts Dallas up 6 with 32 seconds left. MVP.

• Nash gets a layup, cuts it to 4. Howard misses a free throw, makes one. Nash jumps into Howard and gets three free throws. Make. Make. Make.

• 110-108, with 14.4 left. Dallas takes a timeout.

• Out of the timeout, Dallas inbounds to Dirk and Phoenix fouls immediately. 13.6 left.

• Dirk to the line. Miss! MVP?

• Makes the second. Nash runs down and misses a three. Marion grabs the rebound and dumps it to Nash, and he nails a three from the wing. MVP! Tie game, 2.7 left. Wow. No words. Just wow. I just had a flashback to that double-OT Phoenix/Nets game I went to in Jersey a few months ago.

• Dallas to inbound. Dirk catches, shakes off Raja Bell and…misses an 18-footer.

• OVERTIME! 111-111. What a great game. Nash is making his case for a third MVP. Dirk just missed a free throw to ice it , sent Nash to the line and missed the two to win it. Phoenix outscored Dallas 35-20 in the fourth.

• Phoenix jumps ahead 113-111 on a basket from Amare. Dallas misses a few shots. Phoenix comes back and Amare beasts Dirk and scores. 115-111.

• Stackhouse gets a layup, and Nash does right back. 31 and 14 for Nash. Dirk wets one from the wing to make it 117-115.

• Suns back to Amare, and this time he beasts Dampier. 119-115. That’s 14-15 from the floor for Amare.

• Amare tries to beast Josh Howard and gets an offensive foul. 2:03 left, timeout Dallas. They really need to regroup and start going through Dirk again.

• Dallas comes out and runs a Stackhouse/Nowitzki pick and roll. Guess who keeps it and shoots? Stackhouse! Misses.

• Amare to the line. Miss. Make. 120-115, 1:36 left.

• Dallas goes to Dirk and Marion shuts him down. The re-post Dirk and Marion shuts him down again. On a switch, Marion winds up on Terry and forces him to a corner and knocks the ball out of Terry. Incredible defense from Marion.

• Amare elbows Stack in the face. Foul. Timeout. Dallas has to get a basket on this next possession. 120-115, 58 seconds left.

• Terry drives on Nash and gets an easy basket. 120-117.

• Nash drives on Dirk but can’t get a basket or call.

• Shot clock off and Dallas has the ball, down three. They can’t figure out what to do, but Terry catches and nails a three with Nash’s hand in his face! 120 all! I have to cover my mouth to keep from screaming. Ben texts me: “What a f*cking game.” I agree.

• OK, 4.9 left and Phoenix has the ball at midcourt. Bell to inbound. D’Antoni takes a 20. Suns return. Nash says something to Amare and he nods. Now Marion to trigger. It’s an iso for Barbosa! Are you kidding? Barbosa drives and misses a short jumper.

• 120-120. Double OT. Incredible game. I need another drink.

• They didn’t get that ball to Nash? Amazing. I can see thinking that Barbosa has the quickness to drive on anyone, but…you got Mr. MVP over there. I think D’Antoni out-thought himself there.

• OK, double OT. I think I get hazard pay for this. I should.

• Dallas wins the tip and Jon Barry comes running up the sideline in a suit. That was really weird. I guess he had to hit the head or something and didn’t make it back to the broadcast table in time.

• Dampier gets a tip-in. Amare comes back and draws a sixth foul from Josh Howard, who’s played terrible the last half hour. Later, Josh. Nash drives baseline and makes a blind bounce pass to Amare for a dunk. MVP.

• Dallas goes to Dirk on the wing and Marion blocks his jumper. Nash falls down and turns it over, then runs over and takes a charge on Terry. he saw that coming from 30 feet away.

• Right back down and Nash hits Amare for a dunk, and one. Dampier’s six. Miss. 124-122.

• Nash and Amare, another two man game. Nash again threads a pass to a cutting Amare, who gets fouled. Make. Make. 126-122. 2:23 left.

• Dallas goes to Dirk, who drives and misses. During the next possession Dirk picks up a T. Nash wets that. Dirk keeps staring at the ref.

• Stack for three! 127-125.

• Nash misses an elbow jumper but Marion grabs the rebound and banks it in. 129-125. 1:11 to go. Timeout. Gilbert and the JYD commercial is on again. Can’t one of these teams just run away with this game? Dallas looks so flat right now.

• Here we go. Dallas back and run Terry off a double screen. He collides with Barbosa, who fouls out. Dirk comes back at Marion and loops a shot 20 feet high and in. 129-127.

• Nash misses a jumper and Dirk drops the ball out of bounds under duress. That call’s not going against him in Dallas, though. Dallas ball. 35.2 left. 129-127.

• Nash picks Terry and throws the ball off Terry and out of bounds. Crazy. Phoenix ball. Dallas doesn’t foul. James Jones misses a three. Dirk comes down and as the clock runs out, clanks a two off the rim. Game over. Phoenix 129, Dallas 127.

• Has the MVP award ever gone back and forth during a game like that? Did Steve Nash just win it? And did Phoenix just steal the Dallas swagger? I don’t know. I’m going to bed.