The Dallas Mavericks walked into the VISA Athletic Center on Sunday night with their playoff spot clinched earlier that day, but they looked nothing like a playoff team in this one, losing to the Phoenix Suns 117-115 to drop to 0-2 in the NBA restart bubble.
The Mavericks wasted no time getting the scoring started. They led by 12 at the end of the first quarter thanks to 22 combined points from Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The second quarter started with a tip in then no other than Boban Marjanonvic. Marjanovic had a great dominant quarter, ending the first half with eight points and three boards. Doncic joined the party by scoring an incredible 23 points in the first half. The Mavericks had yet another high scoring first half, leading the Suns 73-60 at the break.
The Mavericks opened up the second half with the same goal they had in the first: attack. Two aggressive plays from Doncic in the first five minutes sent both Booker and Ayton to the bench with five personal fouls each. But this didn’t stop the Suns from rallying, who to took the lead even with their stars on the sideline. Things began to look very different as Phoenix outscored Dallas 36-to-19 in the third quarter, claiming a four point lead heading into the final quarter. The Mavericks struggled to find a rhythm to start the fourth, scoring just six points in five minutes. A double technical against Dorian Finney-Smith and DeAndre Ayton with less than four minutes left could’ve given the Mavericks some juice. Instead, they fouled Devin Booker on a three-point attempt and turned the ball over right after. The Suns got away with a lucky call, sending Ricky Rubio to the line that gave them a four point lead with a minute left. Down by two with one more possession, the Mavericks went for the win on a Porzingis three. It missed the mark but the ball hit the Suns when going out of bounds. Tim Hardaway Jr. took a three to win it, but came up short. Mavs lose, again.
The Mavericks once lead by 15 points, which soon evaporated as the second half began. The team could not find any momentum on the offensive end in the second half. Despite Booker and Ayton being out for the final seven minutes of the third quarter, the Suns went on a 29-to-9 run. Dallas could not buy a three point field goal in this one, shooting 6-31 from behind the arc. This team desperately needed more from its starters. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored two points on 8.3 percent shooting from the field, and Dorian Finney-Smith shot 25 percent while scoring eight. Maxi Kleber has not found any consistency in Orlando so far, following up his seven point showing against the Rockets with 25 percent shooting in this one.
Carlisle continues to experiment
In the three scrimmage games, we saw Rick Carlisle keep the rotation plain and simple. Whenever the starters had played five minutes, he would substitute all of them out for reserves. Now we’re seeing Coach get a little more intentional in his rotations. Antonious Cleveland saw the court for four minutes in this one, filling the roll of Justin Jackson who did not play. Trey Burke, who played 30 minutes against the Rockets, saw just 12 minutes in this contest. We’ve still yet to see J.J. Barea hit the court in the two seeding games. With all these strange figures, one thing is certain: Rick Carlisle is nowhere near done tinkering with his rotations. But it’s clearly not coming without a cost. The Suns rallied when the reserves were on the court. I understand the Mavericks are trying to figure out the best rotations before the playoffs, but I really think there should be a bigger emphasis on winning first and foremost. The Mavericks are now nearly stuck in the standings and will play the Clippers, which is likely going to end poorly. I’m not smarter than Rick Carlisle, but maybe it’s time to get the starters back out there when the offense is struggling.
Kristaps Porzingis continues to provide
The Unicorn started his 25th birthday night right where he left off after scoring a season high 39 points against the Houston Rockets on Friday. Porzingis scored 11 points in just the first quarter, which is the same amount of combined points he had in the Mavericks two prior meetings with the Suns this season. He ended the night with 30 points and eight rebounds, proving to be a bright spot in these disgusting games.
Curry shakes off the rust
Thankfully, Seth Curry is looking like himself. After some lights out performances in the scrimmage games, Curry scored just three points against the Rockets. He also missed a free throw that could’ve put the game out of reach. But tonight Curry looked much more improved. He scored 14 points in the first half, outscoring his per game average of 13. He finished the game with 16 points. The team will need to continue to see more of him if they want to find a win.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.