Phoenix Suns 96, Dallas Mavericks 94 — Breaking the cycle


Jared Dudley (right) had a career-high three blocks, including one on a Vince Carter (left) layup. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns turned the tables on their typical storyline this season and stopped an eight-game losing streak to the Dallas Mavericks in a 96-94 victory at home on Thursday night. Jared Dudley scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Steve Nash balanced a slow first half with a hot third quarter to add 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Phoenix’s starters played the Mavs to a draw in the first quarter, led by a quick start by Channing Frye (who would fade and finished the night 2-for-8 from the field) and a relentless pounding from Marcin Gortat, who had eight points in the quarter. The question at that point, as in most Suns games, became whether the bench could keep the game close enough while the starters rested.

Unfortunately, the answer was — initially — a resounding “no.” Dallas opened up a nine-point lead at the half. Former Sun Vince Carter had 13 points in the first two quarters.

Carter hit another basket on the first possession of the second half, at which point Alvin Gentry decided that he’d seen enough. He switched Grant Hill onto Carter, even though it meant having Frye guard Dirk Nowitzki. The move had predictable results — Carter missed his next two field goal attempts, but Nowitzki made his next two, followed by a Carter three with 6:46 to go in the third to give the Mavericks an 11-point lead.

But then the Suns caught fire. They only missed two shots for the rest of the quarter, a Dudley free throw included. With Phoenix down eight late in the third, Dudley got his hands on a loose ball during a sloppy Suns possession and made the right decision to pull it out to the top of the key, get the ball in Nash’s hands and reset the possession. Nash hit Grant Hill for an in rhythm 19-foot jumper, and Dallas took a timeout. It was to little avail, by the end of three, Phoenix had mounted a 13-point comeback to take a 78-76 lead.

Once again, the outcome of the game came down to how the bench would perform. The Suns showed how much they wanted this win (they’re now in shouting distance of the playoffs, but don’t get excited yet) by leaving Marcin Gortat and Grant Hill in to start the fourth, alongside Hakim Warrick, Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown. That lineup extended the lead to five and forced another Dallas timeout.

Shortly thereafter, Phoenix took advantage of Dallas center Brendan Haywood’s absence (out with a left ankle sprain) to get extended minutes for Warrick and Frye together in a smaller lineup. Then the Suns got the breathing room they needed from two unlikely sources. Telfair drilled a three with just under eight minutes to go, and Brown followed it up with a smashing offensive putback to make it a 10-point Phoenix lead. They kept the Mavericks at bay until Nash and Hill re-entered the game. With 2:46 to go, the Suns led by nine.

And the Mavericks decided this game would be more fun if it came down to the wire. Jason Kidd hit a three. The Suns committed a couple of turnovers; Dudley missed a three; Dirk hit a 14-footer — and suddenly it was a four-point game. What looked like a Gortat and-1 instead turned out to be an offensive foul (Gortat pushed off against Nowitzki and, in doing so, hit him in the mouth). Then Nowitzki made a layup to make it a one possession game. Hill, somehow, missed two free throws that could have made it a four-point lead.

On the ensuing Dallas possession, Rodrigue Beaubois got two shots to tie the game, but couldn’t hit either. The second was a wide-open 18-footer that was just long. It was more dramatic than a Suns fan would like, but it’s a win.

Markieff Morris gets plenty of rest, Dirk gets banged up, former Suns

  • Warrick’s increased minutes tonight meant Morris spent plenty of time on the bench; he played only three minutes. Whether that was due to fatigue or matchup exploitation, he could likely use the rest as he continues to play games well past the number that he did in a college season.
  • In addition to getting hit in the face by Gortat, Nowitzki banged his left thigh on Hill’s knee and came up limping. He initially stayed in the game but eventually checked out. He stretched out along the baseline — Nash-style — and came back into the game in short order. Judging by the Dallas comeback, I think he’ll be OK. He ended the night tied with Dudley and Carter for the game high with 18 points.
  • Facing the Mavs always means a bevy of ex-Suns. Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter have a combined 38,367 minutes in a Phoenix uniform. That’s almost 1,066 games at a 36 minutes per game clip.

  • Scott

    Nowitzki banged his left “thing?” That sounds painful.

    I confess I turned this game off early, before the end of the 2nd quarter. The Suns seemed to me to be playing with low energy and were dropping behind. Having seen that before, I decided to bail.

    Gratz to the Suns on their win, though, and gratz to Warrick for not only making it onto the court, but scoring 9 and nabbing 4 offensive rebounds. He lead the team in +/-.

    Gratz to Brown for some nice dunks. I’m glad he’s finishing more around the rim now.

    Oh, and it was good to see Robin get some offensive touches early (though those shots were all he got in the game).

    I keep hoping to see Robin and Gortat work together inside to overpower their opponents … but alas no such luck.

  • Serek

    Good win I think. Having the ability to shut down the reigning champions and mount a counter-offensive is something to think about.
    I only saw the highlights and some stats. Did Gentry actually mix the starters with the bench all the time? Who was on the floor when the Mavs pulled their comeback run in the 1st half? And Warrick took to the floor with energy – few minutes, almost 10 points, most of them in FTs.
    As for Brown, actually Beaubois bailed him out by failing to score on the last possession, because Shannon completely lost his man on the pick.

  • Jeremy A

    I wasn’t able to watch the game, but this article was well written and I could envision myself there! Great job!

    We Suns fans are so conflicted! We love to see our team win but we also want a decent lottery pick. Do we add a piece or start tearing our team apart? So many though decisions to make.

    I’d like to see a trade where we send Lopez to the Nets for Marshon Brooks as they need the help at center with so many injuries, and we would add a piece for the future as well.

  • fan in chi-town

    Great win. They could have mailed it in after halftime but they chose to scrap and fight and the bench came up big. It was obvious that Gentrys plan was to go low in the post as often as possible to not get into a jump shooting contest with a superior jump shooting team. It worked for the most part. Even Dudley posted up lol.

    The only negative that I took away was not from our team. It was vince carter. He played well and he’s played well all season for the Mavs. It makes me sick to think Carter might have actually helped us make the playoffs last year if he actually gave a crap about playing for us. Instead he might have done just enough to keep us out. So, so disapointing, and I truly understand now why all of his former team’s fan bases can’t stand him.

    But I digress. A truly great win on a back to back against a team that has owned us since 2008. We still might be able to sneak into the playoffs if we keep scrapping like that.

  • Mel.

    … hey, where’s Marley?

  • steve

    Haha, I was thinking the same thing, Mel. He’s probably still writhing and sobbing over the fact that Half Man, Half Crybaby got blocked by one of the least athletic players in the NBA.

    Any time the Suns beat the Mavs, I’m happy. I don’t care if it was ugly or they almost blew it. Beating the Mavs is never a bad thing.

  • Scott

    To be honest, if the Suns had any inside attack at all they should have won this game, because that’s where the Mavs were critically weak.

    The fact that the Suns struggled to win, and basically only won because Terry wasn’t on the floor to close out the game, shows how weak the Suns are around the hoop.

  • Al

    I am surprised that Warrick played some minutes. He and Childress will probably get some time this next week in order to show some trade value. I think Gentry needs to change the time that Steve gets his rest in the 2nd half. Steve should come out of the game 3 mins before the end of the 3rd quarter and then let him play the entire 4th quarter unless a big lead is secured. It seems that the suns are most likely to lose games against playoff teams when Nash is resting at the start of the 4th quarter. Suns second unit has a hard time maintaining leads or getting back into games specially when Telfair is taking 3 point shots every so often.

  • Morgan McCoy

    Scott the Suns had a offense attack inside. That is what they were trying to do all game. The Mavs played good D on Gortat. They threw a different look at him. They were fronting Gortat instead of letting him post up. So Nash would lob it over the defender, but what the mavs did was rotate another defender to trap and double team him. That forced a couple turnovers this way and some tough shots, but Gortat still had a solid game. These guys have been entertaining to watch the last couple games, and I can’t wait to see these guys again.

  • Scott

    @Morgan -

    I understand what you’re saying, but Gortat had 16 pts, Frye had 5, Morris had 0, Robin had 6, and Warrick had 9. That’s 36 pts from the front court, when the Mavs were weak there, just having Mahinmi, Dirk, and Odom.

  • Tony

    @Scott,

    I’m a little confused, are you suggesting that if not for Carlisle’s decision to bench Terry, the Mavs would have won? If that is indeed what you are asserting, then you couldn’t be even more wrong. Terry was having a horrible game and in fact, hasn’t played well for the Mavs in the past couple weeks.

    As far as the inside game goes, I think the Suns did a nice job of balancing that with their attempt to speed the game up. The Suns do not have a good half-court offense and the difference in the latter parts of the 3rd quarter until the closing minutes of the 4th, was that Nash and even Telfair seemed to speed up the pace of the game.

    So the problem with going inside too often is that it inevitably slows the pace of the game, to the detriment of the Suns. It’s why we’ve never seen a great offensive post player with the Suns since the SSOL days.

    Overall, a really terrific win for the Suns. The Suns had three MVPs last night with one of them being Gentry. A game after costing the Suns by playing the entire second unit on the floor against the Thunder, last night Gentry made sure to always have either Hill or Gortat on the floor with the 2nd unit. While he should have been doing this since game 1, at least he finally adjusted. Next, going to Warrick was a brilliant move. Warrick, the second MVP last night, brought tremendous energy, which was severely lacking on the Suns part through most of the game. His energy and hustle were contagious and besides the players, it seemed the crowd was more energetic as a result of Warrick’s energy.
    Finally, although he almost cost the Suns a victory by missing two critical free-throws, Grant Hill’s defense was amazing. I don’t know if it’s just that the team’s overall defense has improved or what else, but Hill’s defense seems to get better and better each season. He started off on Dirk shutting him down and then when Carter had a great 1st half, Gentry put Hill on him and not surprisingly, he shuts Carter down. Hill’s defense alone made him the 3rd MVP of the game.

    Lastly,

    I do not understand why whenever the Suns have a relatively decent lead in closing minutes of the 4th quarter, they seem to slow the pace of the game which almost always results in the opposing team making a run and either winning or coming up just short. I understand about trying to eat up as much of the game clock as possible, but when they do that, their offense falls apart and they start committing turnovers and taking bad shots. Even if the opposing team gets a few more opportunities to score with the Suns continuing to push the pace, if the Suns score with them, what difference does it make so long as the Suns still win.

  • Scott

    @Tony -

    IIRC, Terry normally delights in throwing daggers at the Suns at the end of games. In particular, 4th quarter close-outs are his thing (not to be confused with Dirk’s “thing” which is now a “thigh”).

    As I said, I did not watch the 2nd half. Terry may have been having a terrible game, but going by the stats he was 3 of 7, and if he’d been in at the end to hit his 3, he’d have been 4 of 8, which isn’t terrible. So by virtue of his scoring percentage he wasn’t far off from being good.

    As for his defense, considering the role he normally plays, I imagine most of the time he was on Brown. Brown had 7 pts, 3 rebounds; Terry had 6 pts, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 TO in roughly the same amount of time. So Brown didn’t significantly outplay Terry.

    Now I suppose you could make the case that Terry ought to outplay Brown every time, and if he came up even then that’s a terrible game. I don’t know. But if Terry had come in at the end and shot the 3 that won the game, clearly he would have outplayed Brown. :)

  • Morgan McCoy

    Scott do take in account the amount of ft’s the suns shot. Warrick shot 10. Suns attacked the paint all game. The Mavs did play solid D in the paint. Like I said they were trapping Gortat. He had 5 turnovers, because of this defense. The guys who won this game was Hill, Dudley, Warrick, and Nash. They all turned it on in the 2nd half. Plus Dudley and Hill did a great job of posting up smaller defenders. Just like they did in college. It’s something I’d like to see more out of both of them. They need to run up court and get mismatches.

  • Cam

    Now that it looks like the Suns are trying to make a push for the playoffs, would a Fropez for Jimmer trade, straight up, be something worth looking into? Anything is better than what Telfair and Price are giving the Suns right now. Go Suns.

  • CT

    Every time I saw Telfair Price playing, I miss Gorin…