Preview: Dallas Mavericks (39-16) at Phoenix Suns (27-26)

Dallas Mavericks 112, Phoenix Suns 106



PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have won seven of nine and 12 of 17 to make themselves players in a Western Conference playoff race that’s getting tighter by the day.

Now they can put the cherry on top of this stellar pre-All-Star break stretch by beating the second-best team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks.

The Suns are lucky they are playing an opponent they could never overlook because the nature of this point of this season could lead to a letdown.

“These are tough games,” Steve Nash said. “It’s like a kid on Christmas Eve. I know that sounds very unprofessional, but you play so many games when a break is looming like that you can’t help but be a little bit excited. I think sometimes you have to really guard getting that Christmas Eve fever and coming out a little flat or jittery so we’ve got to just stay focused, stay calm and play a good game.”

Christmas Eve fever or not, you would think the Suns would be able to stay focused playing in a nationally televised team against a team they can really make a statement by beating as the Mavs have won 12 of 13 to enter this contest as the hottest team in basketball.

Dallas has been practically unbeatable this season in games played by Dirk Nowitzki, and now they get back explosive guard Roddy Beaubois, who promptly went for 13 points, six assists and three steals in his season debut last night against the Kings.

The Mavs beat Sacramento 116-110 and thus, like seemingly every team that has visited US Airways Center of late, they will be playing on the second half of a back-to-back. Not that that seemed to bother the Kings when they visited Sunday night.

As is always the case when the Suns face an elite scorer, Grant Hill will get the call on the 7-foot Nowitzki a game after spending crunch time checking Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williams and doing well enough for Alvin Gentry to make another impassioned plea for Hill’s All-Defensive Team candidacy after the contest.

Hill and company “limited” Dirk to 18 points in their last meeting in which Steve Nash got injured in the first quarter and Jason Terry and Shawn Marion picked up the slack in a 15-point Dallas win on the eve of the Gortat trade.

With Hill being undersized the Suns don’t have any ideal options to defend Dirk, who averages 22 points per game, but at least Gentry can count on the former Duke star to make Nowitzki work hard even if he can shoot over Hill.

“He’s a challenge,” Hill said. “You can do everything right and he can still hit the shot on you.”

Not only would a Suns win cap their season-saving run to the All-Star break and put them above .500 at the unofficial halfway point of the season, Phoenix would stay right in the thick of the playoff race.

Portland’s six-game winning streak has vaulted the team the Suns have been chasing for so long all the way up to the No. 5 spot in the West as everyone else has tumbled. A victory would cut the Suns’ deficit for the final playoff spot to 1 1/2 games behind Utah, who is currently tied with the Suns in the loss column.

Meanwhile, they would remain tied in the loss column with No. 9 Memphis, who could be in for a fall with star forward Rudy Gay out at least four weeks with a shoulder injury, and stay just a game out in the loss column behind Denver and New Orleans.

Most importantly the Suns would go into the break feeling great about their recent stretch if they can upset a team as good as Dallas and inch even closer to the postseason picture.

Tags: Dirk Nowitzki Grant Hill Steve Nash

  • shawn

    Tough game tonight hope they stay focused and pull an upset.

  • Mel.

    Ugh, this is another tough one. Suns win, the Mavs take a hit against the Lakers in the Western Conference Standings. Suns lose, they slip a bit against Utah, but the Mavs keep their foot on Los Angeles’ throat, heading into the All-Star game.

    So, actually, it’s more like a win-win, now that I think about it. Anything that hurts the Lakers’ chances in the playoffs is ALMOST as good as anything that benefits the Suns’ efforts to creep on the eighth spot.

  • Lloyd

    Mel –

    Quit worrying so much about the Lakers. I lived in Los Angeles for 47 years, and I have always hated the Lakers.

    My brother still lives in Los Angeles and he hates the Lakers too. When the Lakers won the title last year, he called me up (from L.A.) and complained that that is all he will hear on the radio and see on T.V.; the phony, silicone Lakers fans in Los Angeles. (He says that they put the Lakers flags on their cars, and when they lose, they quickly pull them off.)

    I told him that one of the best things about living in the Phoenix area is when the Lakers win, you can just shut off your T.V. (which is what I did) and you don’t have to hear any more about it (this is Suns country).

    By the way, my distaste for the Lakers is such, that I will seldom watch them anyway.

    Yea, there might be a few Lakers fans out here (which only appear when they are winning), but they live here because they want to get out of graffitti plagued, gang banging L.A. for a better life.

    Kobie is getting old, and when he retires, that will be it for the Lakers. (They no longer have Jerry West pulling the strings for them.)

    Mel, just enjoy the Suns, and forget the Lakers!

  • Mel.

    LOL. Lloyd, I spent 23 years living in Los Angeles. I was born in Pasadena; I got nothing but love for my hometown, but since I moved away, the friends and family who reside there have made my Suns fandom (Which I’ve professed since ’93) an ongoing issue.

    It reached its zenith last year, thanks to the WCF. My anti-LA feelings don’t stem from the usual “GRRHATEKOBEFAAANZ” causes, but rather a deep-rooted desire to jump onto Facebook after every choke-job, and stir up a hornet’s nest (Not of the NOLA variety) by commenting accordingly.

    So in many ways, I think Cleveland delivered me my seasonal highlight last night. Though I’m still pulling for the whole enemy of my enemy thing (Rooting for the Spurs? God help us all…), accordingly. ;)