Few things warm the cockles of my heart like a Suns - Mavs tilt. These franchises are mirror images of one another; their consistency of excellence marred only by their inability to get over the top. Probably fueled by the friendship between Steve Nash and alpha Mav Dirk Nowitzki, there seems to be a mutual respect between the teams that ends up translating into fierce and entertaining basketball contests. Would that that was the case this season...
The Mavs sit at 20-5, trailing only the Spurs (and their ridiculous 22-3 record) in the West. They've won 13 of their last 14 games, including a 12-game streak that ensures they will be NBA champions. They are, as the deportes crowd would say, en fuego.
The Suns on the other hand have lost of 3 of their last 4, snapping a 3-game losing streak with a we-could've-done-a-lot-better-than-6-point victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Sadly, snapping that streak does not come with any sort of guarantee other than ensuring the Suns did not put up their first 4-game losing streak since January of this year. They have been, how you say... mas o menos? Asi asi? At 12-12, they are the definition of mediocrity.
This is the first meeting of the season for these two perennial Western Conference contenders. The Suns have their work cut out for them. Much like with the Lakers, the Suns will have to play nearly flawless basketball to hang with the Mavs. This Dallas squad runs a slow, efficient offense (ranking 23rd in pace and 8th in offensive efficiency) headed up by their own well-preserved point guard, Jason Kidd. And of course there's Dirk Nowitzki, Dirk Nowitzki and Dirk Nowitzki. He is an unholy terror on the offensive end this season averaging 25 points a game on a Nintendo-like 56.2% from the field. That includes a 40% clip from distance. Thus far this season he's been virtually undefendable which is fitting as thus far this season, the Suns have been virtually defenseless. And rudderless. And rotationless.
And yet, here they are at .500 hanging around like they're some kind of legit NBA team. A top-ranked offense will do that in spite of a defense more than wiling to concede open shot after open passing lane after open lay-up.
In my heart of hearts, I expect this game to get ugly and to do so fairly quickly. The play-by-play at times will resemble portions of Team America: World Police as the Suns have absolutely no answer for Dirk or the rest of the Maverick offense, whilst getting stifled by some impressive Dallas D.
But that is sooooo not very Bright Side of me, is it? So here's the Suns best hope (stop me if you've heard this before): push the tempo and turn the game into a track meet. Hit from distance. Attack the glass on the defensive end to limit possessions and get started on run-outs. Get timely stops. Etc.
The Suns can win this game, but it's a longshot. It's a rough start to a rough little road trip (next up is a Sunday-Monday back-to-back at OKC and San Antonio). Am I playing preview Scrooge? You think there's some holiday cheer in store for Suns fans in tonight's box score? Sound off in the comments.