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4 observations following the Dallas Mavericks opening night loss to the Phoenix Suns, 107-105

Dallas collapses after holding a 22 point lead

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Phoenix Suns on the road Wednesday night, giving up a 22 point lead and losing 107-105. Devin Booker led the Suns with 28 points and nine assists. Luka Doncic chipped in 35 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the losing effort

A rowdy Phoenix crowd greeted Dallas and the opening minutes of the game were a back and forth affair. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with early scoring and the Suns answered in kind with a team effort. Christian Wood made his presence felt after mid quarter substitutions, drawing three fouls and helping Dallas build an eight point lead. Following a Suns timeout, Devin Booker attempted to will Phoenix back into things, but Luka Doncic kept pouring it on, with 13 in the period. Dallas led 32-24 after one quarter.

The Maverick bench unit poured it on quickly, with Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr. raining threes; all of a sudden the Mavericks established a 21 point lead. Dallas kept pressing and with the exception of missed free throws, played an outstanding quarter, leading by 15 points or more for the final eight minutes of the half. Ball movement on offense, rotations and rebounding on defense, Dallas played a great quarter and found themselves up 62-45 heading into the second half.

An early Luka Doncic three extended the lead back up to 20, but when Spencer Dinwiddie getting his fourth foul just a minute into the third quarter, it started a sequence of really poor Maverick play. Tim Hardaway failed to convert numerous open looks, JaVale McGee called his own number for some reason, and the Suns started drawing fouls while attacking the rim. The Mavericks had the same number of fouls and made field goals in the frame, with six each. Phoenix whittled the lead down to one point with a minute left, but Christian Wood would make to baskets to give Dallas an 81-76 lead heading into the fourth.

Christian Wood kept the party going, pouring in 12 more points (16 straight) to start the quarter forcing a Phoenix Suns timeout, with Dallas up 93-80. The Mavericks got fairly sloppy defensively and Phoenix pulled it back within three, 97-94, with five minutes remaining. With Jason Kidd opting to put Christian Wood on the bench, the Mavericks weren’t able to hold the lead and the Suns took a 105-100 lead with 1:37 remaining. Doncic scored five straight to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining. Damion Lee continued his fourth quarter heroics, scoring the game winning basket. The Dallas Mavericks fell on the road in Phoenix, 107-105.

Now, some thoughts:

Missed free throws, sloppy play, and a questionable coaching decision doomed Dallas

The Dallas Mavericks missed 13 free throws in the game (Luka Doncic made all 13 of his, so the rest of the team went 8 of 21). They committed six turnovers in the third quarter, which was where things went sideways for Dallas. Then Jason Kidd opted to pull Christian Wood, probably for defensive purposes, at a moment in the fourth when he was absolutely on fire. Then the offense went ice cold.

Free throws are a matter of concentration. Turnovers are usually a matter of execution. Puling Christian Wood was a mistake. I predict Jason Kidd will relent on the defensive concerns Wood poses at some point, simply because he’s too good on the offensive end. I understand why he pulled Wood, in principle, but Wood was also why the Mavericks were in this game in the fourth quarter.

The third quarter collapse showed the need for a third playmaker

Spencer Dinwiddie picked up his fourth foul moments into the third quarter and the Mavericks didn’t have much of an answer. Tim Hardaway replaced Dinwiddie and while Hardaway can be uber-effective when hot, his cold shooting meant he brought little to the table in those additional minutes Doncic also got oddly passive in the quarter and it wasn’t until the insertion of Wood in the lineup that Dallas started to do much of anything. Dallas had just six field goals in the whole quarter, with Luka Doncic hitting two shots in the first two minutes and Wood hitting two in the final minute. That means Dallas went nine minutes with just two made field goals. They have to get better offense than that.

Dallas drawing fouls could be huge this season

Luka Doncic isn’t going to get a foul that isn’t an attempted murder, that’s the side effect of being a very, very strong player and also one who simply has not stopped talking to referees in four years. Enter Christian Wood who drew, by my estimate, a million free throws. He did it through attacking the rim, establishing position on post ups, and setting screens. Dallas lived in the bonus, getting into it early in the first three quarters. Now, the Mavericks need to hit their free throws (Wood in particular), but foul drawing is an incredible asset for a team as offensively lethal as the Mavericks.

The fantastic defense of Josh Green

If you opted not to stay up late, then one thing that isn’t reflected in the box score is the really stellar defense of third year forward Josh Green. He was mostly awful on offense, not looking to shoot still, but his man-to-man defense felt like something worth pointing out. Green has something to offer the Mavericks, he’s just got to find more confidence.

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