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MVP Is Nash's To Lose

Dirk Nowitzki had better hope he obliterates Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns when the teams meet again on April 1, because if the league's most valuable player award was decided in head-to-head matchups, Nash stepped front and center as the favorite last night in the Suns' 129-127 double overtime victory last night.

Fitting that Nash grabbed Nowitzki's miss at the end of the game. In a similarly aggressive fashion, the two-time MVP snatched the trophy from his good buddy. For now.

Nowitzki has been the best player on the best team for most of the season, making the MVP award practically a lock - especially with the Mavericks on pace to win 70 games before this recent two-game losing streak. Now that the Suns are only 2 ½ games behind Dallas for the league's best record, Nowitzki will have to do something incredible down the stretch after Nash willed his team to victory while Nowitzki repeatedly shriveled in the clutch.

Dirk, MVPs don't choke.

Every time the Suns needed a big play, Nash was there: He scored 10 points in the final 57 seconds of regulation, including hitting the three-pointer to force the first overtime. He also made the defensive play of the game - yes, Nash played defense, too - late in the second overtime when he created a turnover by slapping an inbounds pass off of Dallas' Jason Terry and tap-danced along the sideline to avoid getting hit by the ball - yes, Nash can dance, too. His final line was phenomenal: 32 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds.

Nowitzki had an impressive line, too: 30 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. For about 46 minutes, he appeared to have the game and the MVP wrapped up. He even had an in-your-face, drive and slam. But while Nash seemed to gain more strength in the final 12 minutes of the game - he just had this nasty, "we-ain't-losing" look in the fourth, didn't he? - Nowitzki seemed to lose all of his powers.

Every time the Mavericks needed a big play down the stretch, Nowitzki disappeared and Terry and Jerry Stackhouse were forced to do the heavy lifting. With the crowd chanting, "MVP! MVP!" in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki missed three free throws. A 91 percent foul shooter missed three free throws?! You would've thought he was back in Miami hearing chants of "Da-vid Hass-el-hoff." Nowitzki had a chance to win the game in regulation and force a third overtime, but both times he came up lame. He also picked up a silly technical foul. Dwyane Wade, who recently questioned Nowitzki's leadership, surely had to be at home chuckling.

One game shouldn't decide the MVP award. But this loss certainly didn't help Nowitzki, who has a reputation for flaming out in pressure situations; a reputation that was solidified during the NBA Finals last year. And, the win certainly enhanced Nash's chances of three-peating as MVP (although I still think Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant should've won the last two). What is Dirk going to do about it? The pressure is on.

By Michael Lee  |  March 15, 2007; 9:47 AM ET
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