What: Phoenix Suns @ Dallas Mavericks
When: 6:30 pm (Phoenix time)
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM
Tonight the Suns play a game that looks winnable on paper... especially after the unexpected 108-106 win in Minnesota on Saturday. The Dallas Mavericks are not only behind the Suns in the standings but score fewer points per game (106.7 vs 99.7), shoot at a lower percentage from the field (44.6 vs 43.9) and their former star player - Dirk Nowitzki - isn't the Dirk that many remember him to be any more. He still starts and is still an important contributor for Dallas but at age 39 his All-Star days are just a fond memory for Dallas fans.
It's also possible that highly touted rookie Dennis Smith Jr may miss this game as he has been dealing with a hip/groin strain. Yogi Ferrell has started at point guard the last five games for Dallas as Smith has sat with his injury. Ferrell has averaged 12.2 points, 4.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds as a starter. Sharp shooting Seth Curry has missed the entire season so far with a stress reaction in his left leg that occurred in a preseason game and will definitely be out for this game.
But nothing is certain with the Suns going into yet another game with Devin Booker sidelined with his own injury.
With the decline of Dirk, the Mavericks went all in on Harrison Barnes in the summer of 2016, signing him to a huge contract that pays him $23 million this season. He is the Mavericks' leading scorer and rebounder but with stats of 18.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg that says more about the rest of the team than him. Smith is second in scoring for the Mavs at 14.4 ppg followed by J.J. Barea (12.1 ppg) and Wesley Matthews (12.0 ppg).
Another player that the Suns might want to watch out for is a German power forward that is not named Dirk Nowitzki. He's a 6'11" 25 year old NBA rookie named Maxi Kleber. Kleber who went undrafted and previously played in Europe has moved into Dallas' starting lineup and scored 21 pts (90% FG & 75% 3O%) against the Spurs Saturday night. He's only averaging 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds for the season but his numbers have been climbing as the season moves on. Given the Suns history of relatively unheralded players randomly having career games against them, Kleber seems to be a likely suspect in this game.
One area in which the Mavericks outclass the Suns offensively just happens to be one of the Suns' most glaring defensive weaknesses... three point shooting. Although they are only 16th in 3PT percentage (36.1%), Dallas shoots a LOT from behind the arc and are 5th in three point attempts (31.7) per game. The Suns are still only 26th in defending at three point line so expect Dallas to continue to fire away from downtown in this game.
Defensively the Mavericks are slightly below average overall (18th) but still better than the Suns on that end. The Suns have the edge in rebounding (4th vs 24th) which should be a plus and Dallas is 28th in shot blocking which could be a slight advantage for the Suns’ starters as they will continue to have a big problem with spacing as long as Booker is out.
Dennis Smith Jr out again tonight vs Suns but per Carlisle a possibility for Wednesday. Last 4 games for Yogi while DSJ has been out -— Mark Followill (@MFollowill) December 18, 2017
avg 14P/6R/4A & 48% FG. Yogi had career hi 11 rebs vs Spurs on Saturday, plus 17 pts & 6 assts
Likely Starting Lineup
PG - Yogi Ferrell
SG - Wesley Matthews
SF - Harrison Barnes
PF - Maximilian Kleber
C - Dirk Nowitzki
Points: Harrison Barnes (18.1)
Rebounds: Harrison Barnes (7.2)
Assists: J.J. Barea (5.5)
Without Devin Booker, no game can be counted on as a win for the Suns. Their main offensive weapon is now T.J. Warren who really hasn't significantly stepped up his game in Booker's absence. Warren is averaging 18.5 ppg for the season and 19.4 in the five games following Booker's injury. In some of those games, other players have stepped up their games to keep the Suns in them (Daniels' 32 points vs the Raptors, James' 25 points and Chriss' 15 pts/8 rebs vs the Spurs) but no one has done it consistantly.
In the Minnesota game we saw what can happen when not just one but several players bring their A games to the court. If the Suns can get that kind of production from what we may usually think of as the "supporting cast" in this game, the Suns should have a good chance to add another W to the win/loss column.
No one was exactly excited when the Suns used an injury hardship exemption to sign Isaiah Canaan, but if he can continue to play at or near the level he did in his first game he will be a welcome addition to the Suns. By virtue of his play - and Tyler Ulis' finger injury - Canaan may actually get the nod to start against Dallas. He should see significant time on the court whether he starts or comes off the bench. Ulis is listed as probable (dislocated finger) for today’s game but Triano said he won't make a final determination until after the team shootaround and pre-game warmups.
Ulis will start tonight. Chandler as well. Expect Canaan to see majority of minutes at backup point guard— scott bordow (@sbordow) December 18, 2017
Likely Starting Lineup
PG - Tyler Ulis
SG - Josh Jackson
SF - T.J. Warren
PF - Marquese Chriss
C - Tyson Chandler
Points: Devin Booker (24.3)
Rebounds: Tyson Chandler (9.5)
Assists: Isaiah Canaan (7.0)
Suns: Devin Booker - out (groin), Reed - out (knee), Williams - out (knee), Knight - out (knee)
Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr - day-to-day (hip/groin), Seth Curry - out (stress reaction)
The Suns' bench.
The bench scored 69 of the Suns' 108 points in Minnesota. That's 63.9% of the Suns' points and 32.2% of the total points scored by both teams. The Suns are 6th in bench scoring this season (40.4 ppg).
This should be a good, competitive game. Dallas and Phoenix are on about the same level and even without Booker, I think that the Suns might be able to steal a game on Dallas' home court... if they continue to play hard and their bench has another great performance.