Game Thread: Mavericks (38-25) at Suns (34-29)

Mavericks 122, Suns 117











Esteemed baseball manager Joe Torre never likes to label regular-season games as “must-win” affairs, because what does he tell his club if they lose?

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry has no reason to heed Torre’s advice because if Phoenix doesn’t win this one it doesn’t matter what Gentry says, the Suns are toast.

Everybody with the slightest bit of interest in the Suns from Shaq on down to your neighbor who will check the box scores once in a while knows how much of a must-win tonight’s tilt against the Mavericks is.

“It’s kind of too early to pull out the old TNT slogan, but it’s win or go home time now,” Shaq told after Sunday’s loss in San Antonio. “We gotta get it done.”

As things stand today, the Suns trail the visiting Mavericks by four games with 19 to play, which isn’t easy by any stretch to come back from, but it’s also not impossible.

Both teams have blown the other out on their home floor, so a loss to extend the margin to five with 18 to play while losing in the tiebreaker with a game yet to play in Dallas would be devastating.

On the flip side, being down three with the lead in the tiebreaker would put the Suns right back in the thick of things when taking a look at both teams’ upcoming schedule.

Phoenix starts a stretch tonight in which it will play seven of eight at US Airways Center, with a winnable stop at Golden State in between.

Dallas, on the other hand, is beginning a stretch of six of seven on the road, with a tough home game against the Pistons in between. The Mavs have dropped five in a row on the road and have fallen to the Clippers, Memphis, Sacramento and Oklahoma City away from home.

Considering vital cog Josh Howard is questionable for the trip, Phoenix’s outlook could be downright sunny if the teams manages to win this one, and a blowout would count for extra style points by showing the Mavs the Suns aren’t going anywhere.

Of course, a loss would dig the Suns in such a deep hole and sully their dispositions so through the ineptitude of their first five-game losing streak in four years that it would take more than a minor miracle to come back from that kind of a deficit.

All that means this is such a must-win game that Torre might even agree.

Pregame update

As stated above more than once, this game is kind of a big deal.

In his pregame chat with reporters, Gentry said his team was so aware of that fact that no Knute Rockne speech would be necessary.

The Suns are averaging 125.2 points per game at home under Gentry, and I expect another inspired effort with the scoreboard operator working overtime.

With Howard not even making the trip, I think the Suns will get the victory they so badly need.

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