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Preview: Suns continue grueling stretch of schedule against Dallas Mavericks

A win tonight against the Mavericks would be huge for a Suns team trying to stay in playoff contention.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (19-27) at Dallas Mavericks (29-17)

When: 6:30 p.m. AZ

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM

Injuries: Suns - Frank Kaminsky (out) knee, Aron Baynes (out) hip, Cameron Johnson (out) quad, Ricky Rubio (questionable) ankle

Mavericks - Dwight Powell (out) Achilles

Some of you reading this will probably tune in to watch the Suns play the Mavericks tonight.

For a lot of you it will be to see the amazing performance of one of the league’s best players who is on a tear...

And for some of you it will be to see Luka Doncic.

But let’s focus on the guy poised to destroy the Mavericks on their home court.

Devin Booker is one of the best offensive players in the game and well deserving of earning his first All-Star selection as a reserve. He leads the Suns with 27.0 points per game while also averaging 6.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

Booker is 8th in the league in scoring (27.0), 2nd in free throw % (.921), 19th in assists (6.3), 15th in true shooting % (.632) and 13th in offensive box plus/minus (4.1).

He is dynamic. He is versatile. He is efficient.

He is also 6th in the league in minutes played per game (36.1).

He has been asked to do everything for his team and he has obliged. Even with the improvements on the offensive end and the burden he shoulders there to carry the team, Booker has mustered the energy to play improved defense in his fifth NBA season.

Devin has bolstered his case for a reserve selection with excellent play in the month of January, averaging 31.6 points per game on a ridiculous .660 TS%. In fact, Booker’s recent play makes him a strong candidate for Western Conference Player of the Month.

All-Star reserves will be announced this Friday, January 31st.

Luka Doncic doesn’t have to worry about waiting to learn his fate. He was one of three players (LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo) to finish first in fan, media and player voting.

The 20 year old sensation is already a bona fide superstar in his second season.

Luka is averaging 29.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game and most advanced statistics support the argument that he is already a top five player in the league.

The Mavericks just finished a three game road trip last night with a 107-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Doncic scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the victory. Dallas has won six of its last eight games.

The Mavericks’ 29-17 record is even more impressive considering Kristaps Porzingis has failed to be the other half of a dynamic duo so far this season. He is averaging 17.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, but his paltry .507 TS% is in the bottom 10 in the league for players averaging double digit scoring (so is Ricky Rubio’s).

Porzingis is averaging 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games since returning from a 10 game absence due to knee soreness.

Should the Mavericks choose to rest Porzingis on the second night of a back-to-back, or even limit his minutes, look for new addition Willie Cauley-Stein to potentially absorb some minutes (especially with the loss of Dwight Powell for the year to an Achilles injury he suffered last week). WCS profiles as the type of physical player Suns’ center DeAndre Ayton has had troubles with at times.

Ayton has become dormant after erupting for the best three game stretch of his career. In the last three contests he is averaging 12.3 points (shooting just .404 from the field) and 11.3 rebounds per game. After combining to attempt 23 free throws and block five shots in his brilliant three game streak, Ayton has attempted just five free throws and blocked two shots in the last three. With Ayton, a lot of his performance seems to be dictated by physicality and engagement, so those two stats can be telling.

A big night from Ayton could help expose a weakened Dallas front court.

Dallas is not the only team playing at less than 100%. The Suns are without reserves Kaminsky, Baynes and Johnson, which has eroded the scoring punch off the bench. Phoenix has managed just 11 and 19 points from its reserves in the last two games.

Rubio, who stuggled through a woeful 1-10 shooting performance in Sunday night’s 114-109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, is also dealing with an ankle injury and is questionable for the game.

The Suns last played the Mavericks on November 29th at Talking Stick Resort Arena and lost 120-113. Doncic had 42 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds for the Mavericks while Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Suns.

The Suns will play Dallas again on the road on March 14th, then finish the season series at home on March 21st.

The Suns have lost three of their last four games after winning seven of eleven prior to that.

Phoenix trails the Memphis Grizzlies (22-24) by three games for 8th place in the Western Conference.

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