It’s not hyperbole to have legitimate concerns about the Phoenix Suns right now. It’s for sure not considering how they have been playing as of late. Tonight, the Valley showed a bit of promise toward turning things around in spurts, however, another fourth-quarter collapse resulted in Phoenix’s third-straight loss, 128-114 this time to the Dallas Mavericks.
Things are continuing to look rough in Arizona, and while the final score doesn’t tell the complete story, it is an indicator that the team continues to struggle to put complete games together, which is what happened in this contest.
Boos came in early and loud for Luka Dončić, someone who Booker has had a, let’s say, complicated relationship with the last few seasons. Despite playing his first game in nine days due to an ankle injury, Mavs Rookie Center Dereck Lively II made an impact early inside, asserting his presence. In the first three and a half minutes, Lively had two easy baskets inside and got to the line for two free throws.
Less than six minutes into the game, Eric Gordon tied his shot total from last game’s two-shot performance against the Kings after he expressed concerns to the media about his lack of offensive opportunities. Gordon ended with 12 points on 6/12 shooting in the game.
A missed transition opportunity with Durant and Booker led to multiple Dončić threes, causing Frank Vogel to take his first timeout of the game. Dallas had gone on a 9-0 run.
With the Mavs surging, Grayson Allen hit two straight threes, making Jason Kidd call his team’s first timeout of the game. There was a clear emphasis on getting Grayson Allen involved early on, he went 2/6 in the first quarter for six points.
Grayson knocks down back-to-back triples pic.twitter.com/HpX0oGkRV1— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 26, 2023
For the entirety of the quarter, Dončić, like he’s prone to doing, controlled the tempo of the game, which led to a 36-24 Dallas lead at the end of the first. He had 17 points to go along with four assists.
Udoka Azubuike, who played in just his fourth game of the season, provided Phoenix with strong minutes to start the second. While it did not necessarily dig into Dallas’s lead, he provided the Suns with a large presence inside with Jusuf Nurkić out for the second straight game.
With 7:04 left in the half, Booker entered the game with Phoenix down 11. Despite him being on the court, he was not able to help cut into the Dallas lead. The Suns missed 12 consecutive shots. Morale was low and nothing indicated any signs of improvement any time soon. Dallas got anything they wanted on the offensive end and Phoenix couldn’t hit a shot to save their life.
Are the Suns the laziest team in the NBA?— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) December 26, 2023
After 24 minutes of play, Phoenix trailed Dallas 64-54. One positive? Chimezie Metu, off the bench, led the team in scoring with 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds. His first double-double of the season and he did it in just one half.
Metu started the second half after his strong first half. Phoenix started to get in a rhythm offensively after a shaky first and second quarters. Eric Gordon and Grayson Allen combined for 14 early third-quarter points, cutting Dallas’s lead down to four before Jason Kidd called a timeout. For the first time all game, it felt like the Valley had put together a few legitimately strong minutes of play.
Chimezie Metu continued to be an assertive force in the third, being impactful inside and maintaining his strong rebounding. After a mostly drowsy and depressing three and a half quarters, a Grayson Allen triple gave Phoenix their first lead since the first quarter. The Suns were completely back into the game and appeared rejuvenated.
Allen’s hot streak continued when Phoenix took back the lead. The Duke product had 19 in the quarter, making five threes, and even caused an offensive foul on Dallas. Allen’s season high for points in a quarter. It was the unlikely supporting cast bringing the Suns back into the game. After 36, Phoenix led 92-91.
Allen stayed hot in the fourth, hitting the Suns’ first three of the quarter and also tying the NBA record for most threes made in a game on Christmas. Dončić also tied the record with a triple shortly after Allen’s.
The Mavs retook the lead after a 15-5 run, going up 106-102 with 7:49 to play and never looked back. With 5:16 left, Dallas was up 113-106. Dončić controlled the pace at the end, helping secure a Dallas victory. While Phoenix showed some heart and fight throughout the contest, they suffered their third-straight loss, losing 128-114, dropping to 14-15 on the year. Their first time under .500 since November 15th when they were 5-6. Once again it was the same story, a fourth-quarter blunder for the Suns.
Metu set a career-high with points and rebounds with 23 and 19. Allen had a season-high in points with 32. Booker and Durant both put up stinkers, combing for just 36 points on 10-25 shooting. Dončić ended with 50 for Dallas on 15-25 shooting, tied for the third most points on Christmas day in NBA history.
Phoenix heads to Houston to face the Rockets on Thursday. Houston is tied with the second-best home record in the Western Conference this season. The Rockets will be playing in the second night of a back-to-back. Maybe, just maybe the Suns can get a win.