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Mavericks vs. Suns recap: 3 observations from a 130-126 loss to Phoenix

Solid process, heartbreaking result

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Phoenix Suns by a score of 130-126 on Sunday afternoon in Dallas. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 34 points in the losing effort, while Kyrie Irving added 30 of his own. But the superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker for the Suns got the best of them, pouring in 37 and 36 points, respectively.

The game opened with both high-octane offenses firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s juggernaut continued to cook throughout the period, while Dallas stopped hitting shots after the first few minutes. Luka Doncic uncharacteristically missed a ton of easy looks, going 1-of-7 from the floor in the quarter. But Dallas did just enough to stay connected and ended the period down 31-25.

Durant spent the early part of the the second quarter murdering the Dallas defense, but the Mavericks had an answer in the form of Timothy Hardaway Jr; a pull-up three in transition from him gave Dallas the lead at the seven minute mark. Hardaway continued to go supernova, scoring 15 points in the frame and 18 in the first half. Devin Booker took over for the Suns but the Mavericks did a great job matching his production, taking a 62-59 lead into the locker room.

Dallas continued to play well in the third quarter, aided by Josh Okogie (0-of-8 from three) making it sound like the beaches of Normandy for Phoenix. Irving was brilliant, scoring 13 points in the quarter in spectacular fashion. Sadly, the officials decided to turn this high-level basketball game into a whistle fest, slowing things down as both teams got into the bonus early and paraded to the free throw line. Dallas built an eight-point lead but an 11-2 run to close the quarter, featuring three straight threes from open role players ignored by Doncic, let Phoenix take a 96-95 lead into the final period.

Christian Wood gave Dallas a huge lift to start the fourth, scoring 10 quick points and helping the Mavericks re-establish a lead. The two teams went back-and-forth, with Dallas clinging to a small lead for much of the period. But the Suns went back in front late and held a two-point lead with under a minute to go. A Dwight Powell alley-oop dunk tied the game, but then Durant did what Durant does, hitting a tough mid-range jumper to give the Suns the lead again with 11 seconds left. Dallas got a great look out of the timeout, but Doncic inexplicably missed an easy layup. After a dust up between Luka and noted front-runner Devin Booker, Durant hit two foul shots to give the Suns the victory. It hurts to lose this one, but it’s hard to be too upset with this effort against a great team. Here are three observations.

The defense got superstar’d

Watching this game, I wasn’t upset with the effort on the defensive end today. Yes, Luka Doncic refused to close out against the likes of Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, and Ish Wainwright. And Wainwright did make them pay in the second half, hitting some huge shots. But in Doncic’s defense, those are the guys you want shooting open shots. Against this Suns team, with all their offensive firepower, you have to try to force the role players to beat you.

It worked in the first half when Okogie was building a brick house. No one was yelling at Luka for failing to close out. Apart from that, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker made tough shots. It’s what they do. Sometimes, great isolation scorers will get what they want, no matter the defense. We saw that happen for Dallas against the Sixers. The Mavericks just couldn’t quite match Durant and Booker’s offensive production today.

The Maverick bench was fantastic

48 points for the bench today. It was really just a two-man effort, spearheaded by Tim Hardaway Jr. with 21 points (6-of-8 on threes) and Christian Wood with 17. Hardaway was the Mavericks’ best player in the first half and Wood gave them a chance to win with his play in the fourth quarter. I’ve been hard on Wood, but I actually thought he deserved to close the game today. Powell committed a really dumb foul on Ayton and failed to box him out twice, leading to crucial second chance points for Phoenix down the stretch. It would have been nice to have the superior rebounder and offensive threat out there to close things out.

This was a playoff atmosphere

There’s clearly no love lost between these two teams. Although new additions Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are good friends, the rest of these guys do not like each other. The intensity was palpable all game long. All the lead changes, runs, and chippiness contributed to a tangible playoff atmosphere at the AAC.

It was a phenomenal basketball game, and it would have been really nice to come out of it with a win. An actual playoff series between these teams would be must-see TV.

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