In a fun, back-and-fourth Sunday matinee, the Dallas Mavericks came up just short of the Phoenix Suns, 130-126. Neither team backed down, and the animosity generated from a 7-game playoff series last season is still very much intact, as seen by the chest-bumping Luka Doncic and Devin Booker engaged in at the end of the game, drawing a double technical.
It was the last time these teams will see each other in the regular season, but if it happens they match up again in the playoffs, hold on to your butts.
34: First-half bench points for Dallas
On the season, the Dallas bench has produced 34.7 points per game. They had that covered in the first half of this game. The 34 from the bench bested the 28 points from Dallas’ starting unit. It was much-needed production in a game where Kyrie Irving was starting slow, and Luka Doncic was in and out of the game dealing with a leg injury.
Leading the charge was Tim Hardaway Jr. He had 18 points in the half via a career-best five made threes out of six attempts. Then, with Phoenix holding a tight 96-95 lead heading to the fourth, it was a burst of microwave scoring from Christian Wood scoring 10 points in under three minutes to push Dallas to a 105-100 lead.
All said Dallas’ bench scored 48 of their 126 points.
13: Second chance point disparity
Phoenix is one of the league’s better second-chance scoring teams. They average 15.1 a game, good for seventh in the league. The 16 they scored against Dallas today was in line with what would be expected, but the Mavericks weren’t able to generate any additional looks for themselves, managing just three second-chance points.
With Maxi Kleber missing the game as he eases back from his hamstring injury, DeAndre Ayton and Kevin Durant put in work on the boards, securing 21 boards between them, and the Suns’ nine offensive boards to Dallas’ five compounded the issue.
1: Drive to the basket as time wound down
After a Durant jumper put the Sun’s up two with 12.4 on the clock, it seemed predetermined that the game would end on a step-back three-point attempt from someone. Probably Luka, but Kyrie has been given the honor as well. It’s how every close game Dallas has been in has ended. But today, Dallas broke the cycle.
The ball was in Doncic’s hands, but it was a drive to the hoop, not a heave from three, that came next.
It was a sensible move. Luka was just 1-of-9 from three in the game, but still powered his way to 34 points, helped by making 17 out of his 19 free throws, including going 3-of-3 in the fourth. So a drive, either to get a lay in or foul, was likely the highest percentage play, and Luka got exactly what he wanted; after bumping the Suns’ defender off of him to create an open look from about five feet… it was just short. Not the result Luka or any other Maverick wanted after a fun, hard fought game, but progress at least when it comes to better decision-making late in the game.
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