DALLAS - One game after learning the hard way how much they rely on Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks got a tremendous reminder of why leaning on him is usually a good thing.
Nowitzki shook off his worst game in months by scoring 50 points - including 15 in a row in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a rout - to help the Mavs move within a victory of their first NBA Finals with a 117-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
The Mavericks lead the Western Conference final 3-2 with Game 6 set for Saturday night in Phoenix.
Nowitzki finished with 22 points in the fourth quarter. He set a club record for points in a playoff game and tied Kobe Bryant for the most by anyone this postseason.
"We can't relax now, as we did in Game 4," Nowitzki said.
In that game, Nowitzki made only three of 13 shots for 11 points. Not-so-coincidentally, the Mavericks lost by 20.
On Thursday, with 3:24 left in the third peirod, Nowitzki simply took over.
Dallas went on a 10-0 run, with Nowitzki scoring seven. They led by one going into the fourth and were still up one with 8:55 left when Raja Bell and Suns coach Mike D'Antoni were called for technical fouls. Nowitzki made both free throws and his big streak was on.
"When we were down seven in the third quarter, I saw everything slipping away. I tried to make something happen," said Nowitzki, who was 6-of-7 with a pair of 3-pointers and 8-for-8 on free throws in the final period.
- Dallas played Thursday's game vs. Phoenix without backup center D.J. Mbenga, who was suspended without pay for six games for going into the stands to aid the wife of coach Avery Johnson during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in Phoenix.
The punishment is one game longer than New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis received in January for going from the court into the stands to defend his wife.
Mbenga was on the bench in street clothes, having been made inactive after Tuesday night's game, when he entered the stands.