The Phoenix Suns can pick their poison all they want. Until they stop mixing two or more, they’re going to meet their end.
In a 93-87 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, they avoided Dirk Nowitzki, who was sitting out to rest a knee. The Suns then quieted his replacement, Lamar Odom.
But in allowing 29 points to former Sun Shawn Marion and ushering centers Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi to 27 combined points, the Suns failed to turn the five-game road trip that started so terribly into a dazzling success.
There were signs the Suns (6-10) were finding themselves in two wins against New York and Boston, and against the Mavs in Dallas, more good signs arose. Yet wins become more precious by the day, and Phoenix just couldn’t put together a complete game.
Right up front, here’s the good.
Looking like his legs were finally in basketball shape, the 39-year-old Grant Hill got stronger as the road trip wore on. The veteran forward was aggressive early on Monday, though his six second-half turnovers showed that perhaps he began to break down as the game grew old.
He scored 12 first-quarter points on seven shot attempts against the Mavs, and though Phoenix shot only 41.7 percent in the first, it scored 27 points to keep pace with Dallas’ 32. Hill was also in charge of holding Odom to 11 points on the night while totaling 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals himself.
Another positive sign was center Marcin Gortat, who had a monster night of 19 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. And of course, Steve Nash was Steve Nash, compiling 12 assists and eight points.
In the end, none of that was enough.
As a team, the Suns shot a dismal 37.3 percent from the floor and hit on just 6-of-20 shots from three-point range. Dallas didn’t do much better, shooting 40.7 percent as the Mavs continued their own rough season on the offensive end.
And that’s why Phoenix turnovers hurt even more on Monday night.
The Suns gave it up 19 times to the Mavericks’ 12, and it offset a rebounding night where Phoenix impressively grabbed 17 offensive boards. Four of rookie Markieff Morris’ 11 boards were offensive, and Gortat and Jared Dudley also grabbed four offensive rebounds apiece.
Poor shooting didn’t help Phoenix’s cause, either.
After scoring 27 points in the first 9:24 of the game, the Suns’ offense became weak to nonexistent.
The Mavs went on a 13-3 run from the 2:36 mark of the first quarter until 8:03 remained in the half, and during that time they built a 39-30 lead. Phoenix responded with a 12-2 run of its own, including eight points from guard Shannon Brown, but in the end could only muster 19 points in the second quarter.
Holding Dallas to only 17 points on 30.4 percent shooting in the second, the Suns’ 49-46 halftime deficit didn’t look so bad.
But the third quarter did.
Again, the Suns scored 19 points, but this time their shooting slumped below 30 percent. The defense wasn’t there either. Marion alone went for 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting to give the Mavs a nine-point advantage at the end of the third.
The 6-foot-7, 228-pound forward appeared as if he’d slipped on his old Phoenix Suns jersey, hitting 4-of-6 three-pointers and aggressively attacking his old team on 21 shot attempts for the game — most them in the paint. Meanwhile, Phoenix put Mahinmi at the foul line 12 times and Haywood scored all 10 of his points in or near the paint, making the Mavericks’ low shooting totals look harsher than reality.
The Dallas lead reached its high point of 15 with less than five minutes left in the third, but the Suns would never get it under seven until a meaningless 3-pointer by Markieff Morris with five seconds left in the game cut it to the final 93-87 score.
And so the final result can be taken two ways.
The Suns, with promising statistical performances from Gortat and Hill, couldn’t defeat a Mavericks team that mightily struggled to hit their shots. That, or Phoenix simply can’t afford to turn the ball over 19 times and couple those errors with atrocious shooting percentages if they want to get back on the winning track.