Phoenix Suns blitzed by Mavericks in Dallas again

The Phoenix Suns will eventually play a basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks that does not bring up terrible memories for their fans.

Monday’s wasn’t that game.

In a first half that was similar to the season opener, which was similar to Games 6 and 7 of the playoff series last postseason, the second half did not have the opener’s improbable Suns comeback. They trailed by 26 at halftime and fell to the Mavericks 130-111.

Let me know if this sounds familiar: The mojo was off from the jump.

A 33-15 Mavericks first quarterer included zero points for Devin Booker, the first time he’s done that in 202 regular season games. That dates back to Dec. 2019, per Stathead.

Dallas’ defense, as usual, did a terrific job forcing Booker into tough shots through a variety of defenses and Booker began the game 0-for-7. When a few tough middies didn’t go down, Booker forced his way to the rim in semi-transition but still couldn’t make some layups in traffic.

That summarized the offensive first half for the Suns, missing a handful of half-decent looks while failing to create enough consistent ones at the same time. They were not nearly crisp enough in their movement and decision-making or between the margins with 50/50 balls and such to make up for it.

Defensively, the Suns (16-8) once again didn’t appear fully connected on the team defense concepts it wanted to execute against Mavericks (12-11) star Luka Doncic.

They wanted to give him the step-back 3, as they did in the playoffs, but once Doncic got inside the defensive rotations were off in all sorts of ways. That resulted in many open 3s for the Mavs, a lot of ’em in the corner, where the Suns’ help defender in the weak side was often caught overhelping.

It was the same mystifying possession defensives where, for whatever reason, rotating and not being a step in the wrong direction is more difficult for the Suns against Doncic than any other superstar. He has a way of scrambling their brains, making them look like young players still learning the geometry of the floor when it’s a part of defense Phoenix as a team is normally phenomenal at.

There is no good way to defend Doncic. To have a chance against him, though, a defense has to be in sync with what it wants to accomplish against him, or else he will logically break it down with ease.

That’s what he did on Monday with 33 points, six rebounds, eight assists, a steal, two blocks and three turnovers on 12-of-20 shooting in 29 minutes.

When his teammates are converting on 3s, Dallas is just about unbeatable. It shot 20-of-41 (48.8%) from 3-point range.

Booker (4-of-13) and Cam Payne (4-for-16) combined to shoot 8-of-29, overshadowing their great assist-to-turnover ratios of 10-to-1 for Payne and Booker’s 5-to- 1. Deandre Ayton contributed 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Without Torrey Craig (right groin strain) for the third straight game, head coach Monty Williams went with two-way wing Ish Wainright as a starter after Dario Saric got the nod in the first two contests. Wainright did well defensively but Josh Okogie had another encourage shift in the first half, leading to him starting the second half in place of Wainright.

Jae Crowder (not with team), Cam Johnson (right meniscus tear) and Chris Paul (right heel soreness) were out once again.

While those absences are enough of a reason to justify some of the Suns’ struggles, it was another game versus Dallas that highlighted the Suns’ need for another offensive creator.

In the opener, Booker was +20 and Doncic was -16. Monday’s end result there was a -18 for Booker and +20 for Doncic.

Dallas wing Josh Green, the Arizona product and 2020 first-round pick, has taken a bit to develop but he looks ready for real minutes this year. He continued his breakout season of sorts with a great sparkplug effort off the bench of 16 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals. Keep an eye on him, as he adds a different dynamic of energy to the Mavericks’ wing rotation if these two teams meet in the postseason again.

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