Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: FSAThe last time the Mavericks visited U.S. Airways Center, the Phoenix Suns’ offense performed perhaps exactly how they envisioned with the speedy and floor-spacing roster. Phoenix won 123-108 by shooting 15-of-30 from three-point range. Eric Bledsoe shot and slashed his way past the slow-footed Dallas defense, Gerald Green added a 22-point punch off the bench and Goran Dragic needed just 13 points.
On the other end, the Suns held the Mavs to 3-of-17 from behind the three-point arc. Dallas would have been doomed had it not been for Brandan Wright using his length advantage to score 19 points to go with four blocks off the bench.
The Mavericks visit Phoenix for the second time this season on Friday, and once against they’re nipping at the Suns’ heels in the Western Conference standings. Rick Carlisle’s squad is clicking offensively and has scored as least 107 points in its last four.
Dallas is coming off a 129-127 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Jeff Hornacek’s sleeved and orange-clad gang will be tasked with keeping up offensively and then having the legs to grind one out once again.
Can Phoenix again stop the three-point shot?
Dallas doesn’t take a lot of threes, but it is shooting 38.1 percent on the season. Against the Clippers, the Mavs’ offense was booming thanks to the longball. They hit 12-of-25 from deep, so something must be clicking. Oddly enough, second-leading scorer Monta Ellis only needed 13 points for Dallas to put up those numbers — he was mostly dropping dimes, finishing with 13 assists.
The Suns don’t have Bledsoe to inhibit Ellis from doing what he wants, but it’s a good bet they’d rather have him score 20 or 25 than allow, say, Samuel Dalembert from scoring 20 easy points like he did Wednesday in Los Angeles.
And in general, the concerns about Phoenix’s defense are warranted. The pace was fast on Wednesday, but the Suns came out of a a game where they allowed a banged-up Los Angeles Lakers team to shoot 47 percent from the field. That’s not going to fly against a team that needs this win thinking playoff positioning.
Will the Suns bench stand up to Brandan Wright and Vince Carter?
Losing Bledsoe compounds the bench production by moving Gerald Green into the starting lineup. It’s become clear that Green and forward Channing Frye have to produce, at bare minimum, double-figures for this team to cling to its playoff hopes as Bledsoe recovers. So that means more of the onus is on the Morris twins to play productively. It’s not that they need to outright dominate a guy like Wright, who has the obvious physical advantage — it’s just that they need to attack him on the other end of the court and at least keep the focus in keeping him off the offensive glass.
Will they twins play as Markieff did in the Suns’ win over the Lakers, where an inside-out attack helped them open it up? Or will they revert back to their old ways?
How does the guard rotation look?
Leandro Barbosa is still questionable with his shoulder injury, but his presence obviously changes things a bit. The Blur proved he’s still got it against the New York Knicks at the end of Phoenix’s five-game road trip.
How will Barbosa play against a team that’s likely plugged in a strategy to stop him — or at least discussed it? And how does his return or lack of return impact backup point guard Ish Smith, who has been sometimes the last resort for Hornacek? Smith is obviously a defensive liability — maybe not against the small Dallas backup points — but he’s certainly able to help relieve Goran Dragic all while pushing the pace, something that could be invaluable against a Dallas team that didn’t seem keen on running with Phoenix in the teams’ first meeting.