The last time fans of the Dallas Mavericks saw the Phoenix Suns, Jamal Crawford was trying to spoil Dirk Nowitzki’s last home game at the American Airlines Center. Luckily for Dallas, Crawford isn’t on the Suns—nor is he on anyone’s roster—anymore. Even though they’re without one certified Mavs-killer, the Suns are no slouch. Beating them on the road will be challenging.
Devin Booker vs. Dorian Finney-Smith
As Phoenix’s primary offensive threat, Booker will draw Finney-Smith, Dallas’ go-to perimeter defender. Finney-Smith, as he does, has done yeoman’s work this season, guarding the likes of Kawhi Leonard and James Harden in the Mavs’ last two games. They got theirs but he made it hard on them. He’ll look to do the same against Booker.
This season, Booker is averaging 24.9 points on 51.7 percent shooting, 3.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. Look for Phoenix to continue to ride him with Deandre Ayton still out due to suspension.
Dwight Powell vs. Maxi Kleber
I don’t think you can watch Mavericks games this season without noticing the dramatic contrast in the production of Powell and Kleber. Sure, their statistical averages are similar and they both play 25 minutes per night, but they are not the same. Powell continues to start despite being a sup-par rebounder. Luckily for him, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzings do a good job cleaning the glass. Further, teams seem to have clued into the one thing he excels at: rim-rolling.
Opposing defenses are keeping men close to the paint in an attempt to keep Powell from rolling down the lane for an easy bucket. It’s working. After being one of the best roll men in the league, he’s less than average at this point. He ranks in the 31st percentile so far this season. That’s not going to cut it if he wants to stay on the floor.
As for Kleber, he gives you the things that Powell doesn’t. He’s physical, he is a capable rebounder, and he can knock down three-pointers consistently. Not only that, he’s Dallas’ go-to post defender. His skills will be in high-demand tonight as Phoenix rolls out Aron Baynes.
Doncic is fond of tweeting “bounce back” after a loss and he and the Mavs have the opportunity to do just that tonight. Against the Clippers, Doncic had one of his worst games of the season, although he still amassed a pleasing box score. He’ll look to get things going from deep in this one, more than likely.
Helping Dallas’ cause is the recent roll Phoenix is on. They’ve lost five of their last six games. The Mavericks should take advantage of a team on its heels and really go for the knockout punch early. I’m sure that’s what Luka is thinking too.