The Phoenix Suns have won a league-best 35 games this season, including wins in 34 of their last 40 games. They have a 3.5 game lead over the next-best NBA team and are beginning what looks like another roll with a 5-game win streak and counting.
Among the 35 wins, the Suns have a league-best 70% winning percentage (14-6 record) against teams that have a winning record today, and an even better 78% win rate (18-5) against teams that had a winning record at the time the Suns played them.
All this with the Big Three of Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Chris Paul only sharing the floor in 23 of the team’s first 44 games.
The Suns are good. Very good. Probably the best team in franchise history, and arguably the best bet to win the NBA title this year because they simply execute down the stretch better than any contender.
What’s so special about a win over the Dallas Mavericks — a team the Suns had beaten eight straight times — on a Thursday night in January then?
Because this Suns win was on the road in Dallas, at the end of a five-game road trip, against a team that was healthy and playing extremely well. Dallas had won 10 of their last 11 games, including a strong win over Memphis a week ago. Dallas came in with a 26-19 record, 5th in the West playoff seedings.
Because the Mavericks played well against the Suns, showering their raucous home fans with highlight plays and gloating grins all first half, including closing the half on a steal-and-three by Luka Doncic to give the Mavericks at 8-point lead.
Because the Suns were getting killed inside without Deandre Ayton (ankle) to save the day, highlighting his value to the Suns as we watched JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo turnstiled on Luka’s pick and rolls for three and a half quarters.
Because while the Suns record is sterling, they haven’t played too many contenders yet this season. They’d only faced Brooklyn (1-0), Miami (0-1), Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Golden State (1-2), Memphis (1-1), Utah and Dallas (3-0) — the top five contenders in each conference — a grand total of 10 times this season, posting a 6-4 record. In those six wins against the nine teams, the opponent only had all their best players in one of them before Thursday’s tilt, and that was the walk-off (literally) win by Memphis in Phoenix.
So beating the healthy, galloping Mavericks on Thursday night on TNT now shines as the best win of the season, in my opinion.
You might want to count the win over Golden State in Phoenix a few weeks ago. The Suns closed out that game much the same way they closed out Dallas on Thursday. And they won it without Booker, who left in the second quarter. But the Warriors were missing Klay Thompson, so they weren’t their best version of themselves quite yet.
On Thursday, the Mavericks had a healthy team playing very well and had a seven-point lead with seven minutes left. But the Suns closed the game with a 22-6 run that sent the Mavs and their fans home with a ninth-straight loss to the Suns.
“We just have guys who have been in those moments and know how to make plays down the stretch,” Monty Williams said afterward.
The Suns could not shoot straight, but their defense really stepped up with 13 steals and 18 deflections. The Suns increased the ball pressure in the second half, and Mikal Bridges (4) led four different Suns with multiple steals. The Mavericks starting guards, Luka Doncic (8) and Jalen Brunson (6), were forced into 14 turnovers between them, while the Suns starting guards (Paul and Booker) had only two.
And that’s all before Devin Booker’s game-saving block of a Dorian Finney-Smith dunk attempt with the Suns holding a tight 104-99 lead in the final minute.
“It’s the defense that anchored us for sure,” Monty Williams said.
“Defense, that’s what we pride ourselves on,” Devin Booker said later. “Just sticking together and understanding it’s a 48-minute game.”
The Suns held Dallas to only 19 points in the fourth quarter, including just 6 in the final seven minutes.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul led the Suns to the win, but everyone stepped up across the board. Booker finished with 28 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Chris Paul had 20 points, including the back-breaking three to give the Suns an eight-point lead after the Booker block, 11 assists, 2 steals and a block, with no turnovers.
“I really enjoy our team,” Monty Williams said.
So do we, Monty.