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Mavericks’ road trip only gets harder after late collapse against Suns

Dallas has three more tough games on the road

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks’ loss to the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night was frustrating. Dallas played well throughout, leading for much of the game—including the fourth quarter. What’s more the offense, stalled for much of the season, appeared to come to life—from deep at least. Still, the Mavericks lost.

The Suns scored on 11 of their final 12 possessions to ice the game. They outscored the Mavericks 37-25 in the final frame. Even though Dallas was without its star player, this is a loss that will resonate with fans and players alike. Given that it’s the first game of a tough, four-game road trip, we might know more about the Mavericks by the time they return to Dallas than when they left.

“It was the fourth quarter—[giving up] 37 points is too many to win the game,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “It was our game. We missed a couple of easy layups toward the end. They kind of got the crowd into it, got a couple of stops, and the momentum went on their side and it was tough to stop.”

Despite the letdown—and zone defense—at the end, it’s hard to say that the Mavericks didn’t play well. They did have the defending Western Conference Champions on the ropes at times thanks to the Suns’ cold shooting from downtown. They shot just 33.3 percent on three-pointers, helping Dallas build several leads.

Porzingis stepped up in the absence of Luka Doncic to lead the team as well. He scored 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the team in scoring with 22 points.

Dallas also shot 50 percent from behind the arc, making 16 of their 32 attempts. That’s remarkable! It didn’t matter, though. They shot horribly on two-point attempts—36.6 percent—including going just 11 for 24 on layups. Making shots at the rim has been an issue all season.

“We missed some shots that were at the rim, and they made shots,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “If Luka was in, we don’t know where we are in that game. But the guys who played, they played their hearts out and we just came up short.”

Coming up short is something the Mavericks are all too familiar with against the best teams in the league this year. Losing to Phoenix drops Dallas’ record against teams over .500 to 3-5. That must create at least some degree of concern for a team with playoff aspirations.

The Mavericks play three more games on their current road trip. They’ll see the Suns once again on Friday then it’s off to California to face the Los Angeles Clippers for two games. The Clippers are playing inspired basketball right now, having won eight of their last 10.

Los Angeles currently boasts the second-best defensive rating in the league at 100.8. They also have the third-best opponent effective field goal rate, coming in at 48.9 percent. Both marks are better than the Suns.

Dallas departed for Phoenix with a 9-4 record, one of the best in the West. But that record never passed the eye test. Wins are wins, but they aren’t coming easy. Whether Doncic plays or not, nothing about the current road trip will be easy for the Mavs. Given the competition, Dallas needs to step up their play or face the prospect of a 9-8 record by the time they return.

“If you don’t get the [win], then [having a lead] doesn’t even matter,” Hardaway said. “I know we can play better, and that’s a good thing.”

Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.