"We had some shooting going, that was fun," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Our defense was rotating for each other and got some rebounds so that was a fun little third quarter to get the lead."
You can say that again.
After playing the game close, tied at 41-41 late in the second quarter despite committing a foul a minute, the Suns fell apart to the tune of a 43-15 run by the Mavericks crossing into the third quarter.
The Suns couldn't do anything right, and now they face an uphill battle with their own psyche as much as any competition they will face going forward.
"That first half, we had a lot of opportunities. Part of our aggressiveness was probably taken away by all of those fouls they called in the first quarter. We had guys in foul trouble."
The Suns committed 14 fouls in the first 14 minutes of the game. By mid-first quarter, all of P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler and Markieff Morris had two fouls apiece. That and the third quarter collapse contributed to them playing just 9, 11 and 17 minutes each in the entire game. That's your starting lineup, folks.
"Even with all of that, we were still up by three at one point and we had one stretch where we had wide open shots and didn't make them. We could have probably blown the game open and we try to tell the guys, ‘hey just keep hanging in there. The shots will go down.' Well they never did."
No, the shots never went down. The Suns shot 33% in the first half while committing 19 fouls, putting the Mavericks on the line for 20 free throws in the first half alone. That's a game's worth of fouls right there.
You'd think the Suns would come out focused in the second half right? Wrong. The Mavericks worked their way to a 30-10 run to start the third quarter. THIRTY TO TEN.
"We expected them (Phoenix) to come out in the third quarter and really pick up the pressure," Dirk Nowitzki said.
Instead, the Suns came out soft, like they'd decided they couldn't be aggressive anymore because of all the foul calls. The Mavericks ate that up, and the Suns' night was done.
"Dirk came out in that second half and it looked easy," Hornacek said of the Mavericks. "They were wide open. Our first group has to get going. It was kind of that way in the preseason and it was kind of like that tonight."
"We played it smart," Nowitzki said. "We had two ballhandlers out there (among Deron Williams, Raymond Felton and J.J. Barea) that could get to the rack. We had some shooting going. That was fun."
"You got to flush it down the toilet," Hornacek said. "I think we were chalking the early part of the game up to a little nerves, a little being jacked up because it was the first game. It seemed like everybody's shot was a little long. I don't know if you see it that often that every shot is long and that's just a fact that they were probably pumped up for the game. So you chalk it up as a bad game by everybody and you bounce back two days later and play again."
Listen to new starting center Tyson Chandler, who had two fouls by mid-first quarter and only played 17 minutes all night long.
"We've got to do a better job getting to the ball," Chandler said of the defense he's supposed to captain. "I've got do a better job helping them with that and help make them feel comfortable out there."
The Suns best player provided some insights as well, sticking to his usual mantra of not giving an inch and just staying positive.
"We just have to stay positive," Bledsoe said. "We got great looks all night, they just didn't fall. And we can't let that carry over to the next game, they're going to fall next game, we just have to stay positive."
When pressed, he did admit they were tentative. He himself repeatedly drove the ball into the lane, only to get caught up in spins or jumps (or both) and trying to outlet a pass to players that weren't there.
Bledsoe made only 4 of 12 shots, and dished just 4 assists against 2 turnovers. That's better than teammate Brandon Knight, who shot better (6 of 13) but committed 6 turnovers to only 3 assists.
"We were just a little too indecisive about what we were going to do," he said. "That made us turn the ball over. You have to tip your hats to them (Mavericks) they played a hell of a game."
The Bosnian bomber started the game 0-for-6 and looked really bad out there. He made a couple of shots after the game got out of hand, finishing just 2-for-10 on the night.
He's got crazy confidence, though, saying the shot felt great every time it left his hand.
The highlight of the night, though, was 18 year old Devin Booker. He became youngest player in Suns history to score in double-digits, and the second-youngest (Maceij Lampe) to even don a Suns uniform in a regular season game.
He didn't put up a shot in short first-half action when the same was still in the balance, but really showed well in the second half as Hornacek turned to the young guys.
"First time I went in, Coach (Hornacek) said I was getting my feet wet," Booker said after the game. " I knew my second opportunity in there I was going to go as hard as possible. Whatever I have to do to help the team win, is what I'm trying to do. It's all new to me. It's the NBA, people say it's a different league and it really is. I'm just here trying to adjust.
Booker made his first two shots - a pull-up at the top of the key and a three from the corner - and finished a sizzling 6-of-7 from the field for 14 points in 21 minutes of play. Only two of the shots were three-pointers (1-for-2), the rest being in the flow of the offense. He also grabbed three rebounds and a steal.
In short, he looked GREAT on offense. On the other end, though, he was abused in pick-and-roll situations and on a key back door cut.
"He attacked the basket, he got looks," coach Hornacek said. "It's going to be (like) every young guy, the scoring is good but he's also got to learn to guard some guys and they're going to take advantage of him. I think he got backdoored on one and that's when veteran guys say, ‘I got a rookie, and I'm going to pick on him.' That's how you learn. Overall, for the first game, I thought he did pretty well."
"I think everybody from top to bottom can take a piece of this loss," Chandler said. "We stay together when we lose and same thing when we win."
"You chalk it up as a bad game by everybody and you bounce back two days later and play again," Hornacek said.
At least the Suns aren't alone in the bad loss department. Houston lost by 20, at home against Denver. Milwaukee lost by 25, at home to the New York Knicks. Memphis lost by 30, at home to Cleveland.
All home losses. All ugly, but something each team needs to just wash away.
Portland, the Suns Friday and Sunday opponent, won their home opener by pasting the New Orleans Pelicans by 18 points at home last night.
The Suns will have to flush Wednesday's game to have a chance against a hungry Portland squad.