DALLAS — The theory before Tuesday night's game here was that Steve Nash, in his emotional homecoming, either would enjoy a great game or lay an egg.
Instead, Nash went in both directions, at times appearing to run a chicken farm, other times looking like he was preparing a resumé for the Hall of Fame.
In the end, Nash had enough help from his new friends, as the Suns pulled away at the end for a 107-101 win over his old team, the Mavericks, at American Airlines Center.
Nash ended up with 17 points and 18 assists, helping to offset a staggering 10 turnovers (though not all were his doing). More important: The Suns got tremendous, and consistent, games from Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire.
In fact, this was one of Marion's finest games ever. He shut down superstar Dirk Nowitzki, while putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds. "We got this win because Shawn Marion played really good defense on Dirk Nowitzki," said Stoudemire, who had a game-high 34 points.
"I just tried to make it hard for him, make sure I got back on defense and put a hand in his face," Marion said of Nowitzki, who hit just 6-of-17 shots and was so frustrated that he drew a technical foul in the game's waning moments.
The defense of Marion will be a key if the Suns are to succeed with a small lineup, as he generally will be guarding bigger opponents. "If we're going to play small, if the effort is there and the conscientiousness on defense is there, I think we can get by," said coach Mike D'Antoni.
In this one, "Shawn Marion did an unbelievable job on Dirk. He did not give him any good looks."
Agreed Nash, "Shawn was phenomenal. Dirk is as tough a cover as there is."
In grabbing their biggest win so far, the Suns (5-2) had plenty of extra motivation: "We wanted to win it for Steve," Marion said.
"It was great to get a win; I will not lie to you," Nash told a big crowd of mostly Texas-based reporters. As for the turnovers, he joked that maybe he was confused and trying to hit his old teammates with passes; more seriously, "We're still trying to figure each other out."
The Suns also got a couple of breaks when two Mavericks went out with injuries early in the game.
With five minutes gone, center Erick Dampier asked out, complaining of a sore hip. Later, key reserve Jason Terry suffered a sprained right ankle after he stepped on Nash's foot.
The Mavericks (7-2) already were missing the injured Michael Finley.
The Suns breezed to a 15-point lead early in the third quarter. Then Shawn Bradley started to shut down the Suns, disrupting shots, making steals and hitting shots at the other end.
When Bradley sat down, the Mavericks started to fade and Nowitzki, hounded by Marion and burdened with foul trouble, had little to offer.
"It's crazy to be here and not be playing for the Mavericks," Nash said at the morning shoot-around. "I felt like that jersey was glued to me."
Local fans felt the same way, giving Nash a standing ovation at the pre-game introductions. Nash then hugged and shook hands with Dallas players and coaches.
"It was tough," he admitted after the game, calling it "the most emotional game I can remember.
"I felt a little nervous, and I felt a lot of different emotions.
"I'm glad it's over. . . and that we don't play them that often. I don't really enjoy playing against my old guys."
Nash, however, didn't say anything to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who took some jabs at Nash upon his departure. But Nash could hear Cuban, who sits courtside, razzing the Suns.
"He was animated tonight," Nash said. "There were a lot of words back and forth" after Nash signed with the Suns. "Not any of them were important. But everyone was pumped up."
Nash called the Mavs "a terrific team" but that, "We're a really good team, too.
"We have emotional guys, some fighters, some athletic guys. I love our group."
Nash said he only needed six tickets to hand out before the game.
"All my friends either play for the team or work for the team," he said.
Players get two free tickets each on the road. They often trade among each other depending on who needs them at any particular game.
Marion recently got 120 tickets for the the game last week in Chicago, where he grew up. Most of the tickets were paid for by Marion and distributed to kids.
LB OUT AGAIN
Leandro Barbosa's sore right ankle flared up again after he played 12 minutes Saturday vs. Sacramento. He sat out vs. the Mavericks and probably will do the same tonight at the Hornets.
Note that tonight's game will be carried by Fox Sports Net Arizona, which usually carries home games. . . . D'Antoni acknowledged that Bradley and the Mavericks' zone bothered the Suns, but they should improve as they play against more zones. "With five shooters, I can't see it hurting us."
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