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Preview: Shades of 2014 as Suns go into final day of season with must-win, hoping for luck

Dallas is merely one roadblock to the Suns’ first playoff appearance in a decade.

Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

What: Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks

When: 1 p.m. AZ / Pacific Time

Where: Orlando Bubble

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: ESPN 620 AM


This is it! The moment none of us ever expected to see. Remember last year, nearly 12 full months ago, when we all were predicting the Suns’ 2019-20 record, and imagining how even breaking into the 30s would be solid? Well the Suns are within shouting a distance of a .465 winning percentage, equivalent to a 38-44 record in a regular season.

But most importantly, they are within reach of the playoffs. THE PLAYOFFS!

Not only does Phoenix need a win over Dallas, they’ll need one of Brooklyn or Milwaukee to defeat their opponent (the Trail Blazers and Grizzlies, respectively). That means we’ve got this game on our hands in addition to an afternoon of scoreboard-watching.

Injury update

Suns: Aron Baynes is off the injury report! Kelly Oubre Jr. is still doubtful as he recovers from meniscus surgery, while Cameron Johnson is probable.

Dallas: Kristaps Porzingis (left heel bruise) is questionable; Seth Curry (sore right leg) is questionable; Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber are probable.

Elsewhere: Giannis Antetokounmpo is OUT against Memphis on a suspension; Ersan Ilyasova and Wesley Matthews are also questionable for Milwaukee. Portland and Brooklyn are basically healthy, while Memphis remains without Jaren Jackson Jr.

Starting lineups

Suns: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Deandre Ayton

Mavericks: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Luka Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis/Boban Marjanovic

Phoenix Suns

What is left to say? This is basically how we all feel. (If you haven’t seen Uncut Gems, you probably wont get this, but it’s apt.)

There is nothing more the Suns could have done. They have been literally perfect. Many games have gone their way around the West. New Orleans fell apart. The Kings never stood a chance. The schedule gods cursed the Spurs with one fewer game than the rest. Even the Clippers stole a game from Portland without Kawhi Leonard.

As Monty Williams said on Tuesday, the Suns “can think about it now.” It, being the playoffs. Yes, really. It still doesn’t sound right, but just say it to yourself a few more times.

If the Mavericks are without Curry and Porzingis, the Suns should be in pretty good shape to win. The big news is Baynes might be available, but it’s neither here nor there, really. Two of the Suns’ most recent 20 games came against Dallas, and the Suns won both.

In the last game, it was the Suns’ bench that outplayed Dallas’ bench that ended up being the deciding factor in the contest. That and the fact that the Mavs don’t have anybody to defend Booker, at all. Even with Doncic outpacing Bridges and putting up 40, the Mavs fell. Let’s assume Bridges does a bit better on Doncic and Booker keeps this up. These teams are pretty evenly matched, and I think we see another close one, and Booker has been a huge weapon late in close games lately.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs have nothing to play for. After losing to Portland in devastating fashion on Tuesday night, Dallas is locked into the sixth seed and will likely face Denver in the first round. This is likely why you see Porzingis on the injury report. There’s no reason to push it. If he needs to rest, they’ll let him.

When the Bubble schedule was first released, the time of this game wasn’t even set, let alone the stakes. But of course it would be Doncic and the Mavs who stood in the way of the Suns’ appearance in the Western Conference play-in games. The stars have aligned. Win this one, and Doncic and Ayton will both make their first playoff appearance just two years into their careers.

Dallas also can’t defend. They are above only Portland and Denver in terms of defensive rating the past seven games. Phoenix should have no problem scoring. Really, it will come down to the Suns stopping the Mavs consistently.

Prediction

As crazy as it is to say, winning is the easy part for the Suns. They have what it takes to beat Dallas — they’ve done it twice recently. It’ll be a shootout, but Phoenix should take it.

Suns 115, Mavs 105

Then all they need is for Memphis OR Portland to lose, and the Suns will be in the play-in!