What: Phoenix Suns (10-32) at Dallas Mavericks (18-22)
When: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 6:30 p.m. AZ time
Where: Dallas, Texas
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
After surprise victories in each of the last two meetings for Phoenix against Dallas, the Suns travel to the Lone Star State on Wednesday evening to try to maintain momentum from their comeback victory over the Kings on Bright Side Night 2019.
108.8 ORtg (18th), 109.1 DRtg (14th) = minus-0.4 NetRtg (19th)
The most important factor tonight is Dallas has the rest advantage. They haven’t played since Monday, when they suffered a 10-point loss to the Lakers without LeBron James. In fact, the Mavericks have been in a big slump since their national television loss to the Suns in mid-December. Dating back to that contest, Dallas is 3-11.
Over that stretch, the Mavericks have actually posted a worse net rating than the Suns, who coincidentally used that game as somewhat of a jumping-off point to boost their own winning streak.
Dallas’ offense in particular has struggled, but their recipe for victory remains the same — a healthy dose of rookie Luka Doncic. The team’s best win since they last played Phoenix came on Dec. 30 against the Thunder, a game in which Doncic posted a Devin Booker-like 25-7 line.
But the Suns have had Doncic’s number all year. In two contests in Phoenix, the Slovenian point forward has averaged just 12 points and five assists. If the Suns can limit Doncic, they should win this game.
105.3 ORtg (27th), 114.0 DRtg (28th) = minus-8.7 NetRtg (26th)
Following last night’s game, Kelly Oubre Jr. remarked that Devin Booker “had some things he was working out” to get healthy, a signal that that team is perhaps prepared for a few games’ absence from their star once again. The tone all night matched Oubre’s. We heard coach Igor Kokoskov go back to his status quo regarding replacing Booker’s production: Other guys will need to step up, play more minutes, take more shots, take on a leadership role.
Phoenix efforted their way into a late comeback against the Kings but can’t put themselves in holes and expect to win consistently without Booker.
The best sign for the Suns would be a return to holiday form for their own rookie, Deandre Ayton. He’s averaged just 13 points and eight rebounds against Dallas this season but needs to be the Suns’ rock on each end to do his part replacing Booker’s creation.
Phoenix does a good job making Dallas uncomfortable, but they’ve also survived in large part thanks to shooting luck. The Suns were on fire opening night and watched as Dallas fell unfathomably cold on Dec. 14. That is bound to even out, meaning the Suns can’t count on lopsided efficiency to steal this game.
It’s simple: play like they did last night in the second half and the Suns will win this game. But consistency has been a massive issue all year and betting on it is doom. More likely, a big game from Ayton or Warren is a more legitimate option for the Suns. I’ll go out on a limb and say one of those guys steps up and the defense continues to challenge Dallas.
Suns 115, Mavericks 108