Preview: Phoenix Suns (47-32) at Dallas Mavericks (48-32)


Time: 5:30 pm MST

TV: NBATV

Mavericks

Mavericks

Suns

Suns

Despite last night’s agonizing defeat at the hands of the Spurs, the Phoenix Suns still control their playoff destiny. A win tonight in Dallas would give Phoenix the season tiebreaker with the Mavericks. It would also mean the Suns could clinch the playoffs with a win over the Grizzlies or a Dallas loss to the Grizzlies. However, if Phoenix falls tonight in Dallas, all of those assurances go out the window. A loss would put the Suns on the losing end of tiebreakers with both the Grizzlies and Mavericks and would make grabbing a playoff spot very unlikely indeed.

Adding to the already massive stakes of tonight’s game is the fact that Dallas can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight. The Mavs are 25-15 at home this year, but the Suns are battle tested road warriors. Phoenix had won 7-of-9 on the road before last night’s collapse in San Antonio. The Suns are certainly up to the task tonight in Dallas, even on the second night of a back-to-back. The major question hanging over both teams is health.

Goran Dragic sat out last night’s game with an ankle injury. While his status for tonight’s game has yet to be confirmed, the look on Dragic’s face as he sat on the bench in San Antonio said it would take a bazooka and a SWAT team to keep him off the floor tonight in Dallas. For the Mavs, both Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion are dealing with lingering injuries. Both played in Dallas’ loss to the Spurs on Thursday, but both are still listed as day-to-day.

Through 79 games, the Suns have exceeded every expectation. Now they have three games to exceed just one more. Their three-round brawl for the playoffs begins tonight in Dallas. For more on tonight’s game, let’s ask three preview questions.

What will Goran Dragic contribute?

Winning last night’s game against the Spurs wouldn’t have changed much about Phoenix’s playoff chances. With that in mind, there’s a possibility that Coach Hornacek held Dragic out against the Spurs to keep him fresh for the Suns’ more important games against Dallas and Memphis. In that case, expect the Dragon to come out breathing fire tonight. Knowing what kind of player Goran is, it’s safe to say that watching his team choke away a 21-point lead must have been torture, and he’ll be more than ready to take his revenge against the Mavericks.

Tonight’s game will require strong contributions on both the offensive and defensive ends. Dragic is the Suns’ go-to scorer when games get tight. He was sorely missed in the second half against the Spurs. Dragic will also be called upon to bottle up Mavericks’ point guard Jose Calderon. With Eric Bledose likely matched up on Monta Ellis, Dragic will have his hands full with the Spaniard who has had a resurgent season in Dallas. Calderon is a great distributor and outside shooter. Though he doesn’t have blow-by speed, Dragic will still have to stay tight with him every minute they are on the floor together. Calderon leads the Mavs in made threes per game. It was poor defense on outside shooters that cost the Suns in San Antonio. They cannot afford to let Dallas get hot from deep tonight.

Can Phoenix avoid a letdown quarter?

The Suns were outscored 37-19 by the Spurs in the third quarter of last night’s game. That collapse completely erased Phoenix’s big first-half lead and essentially handed the game to San Antonio. But last night was not the first time Phoenix let a game slip through their fingers because of one bad quarter. The loss to the Clippers at the beginning of April was attributable to a 34-17 drubbing in the fourth quarter. The Suns loss to the Mavericks back in January was caused by a similar third quarter let down. And even Phoenix’s victory in New Orleans was marred by a terrible second quarter performance.

When the Suns beat great teams like the Thunder or Trail Blazers, they do it with consistency. They win or keep the score close in all four frames, and don’t give their opponent any momentum to feed off of. They key for the Suns tonight in Dallas is consistency in all four quarters. Phoenix must come out of halftime ready to play and claim a victory, because they, just like their opponents, are fighting for their postseason lives.

Who wins the battle beyond the arc?

The Suns and Mavs are two of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA in both accuracy and volume. This game will likely go to whichever team shoots the ball better from outside. The Suns may have the upper hand in this match up though. Phoenix is one of the best teams in the league at defending the three-point line. Though they did not show it last night, today is a brand new day, and there’s no doubt Coach Hornacek will be preaching perimeter from sun up to sun down as Phoenix prepares for its biggest game of the season.

Tags: Dallas Mavericks Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Preview

  • Dan S

    So many bad things to point out here…terrible officiating (Ellis charging call where he clearly wasn’t set, but Dragic had one that was a definite charge, offensive rebound that went off Vince’s hands yet Dallas retained possession), suns choking with shots (dragic and tucker had great three looks they missed near the end). bad bounces in dallas’ favour, but similar shots Phx had rolled out….drawing up bad play to tie it, ughhhh….

  • ynneK

    Terrible executions on clutch.
    Bledsoe can’t touch the ball in those moments.

    Feel bad for the team… we just hit the wall.

  • sunsn7

    Can we all agree indecisiveness from the 8 min mark or so, did them in?

  • DBreezy

    Big picture still a great and unexpected season and no complaints about that, but a bitter loss nonetheless. I really wanted to see these guys continue on with real playoff basketball for the experience and to get more evaluation time on some of the guys who have probably played above their heads this season. Especially since it’s not like the Suns are gonna get a great pick for missing the postseason. McD really looks like he’s in the spot Morey was the two years before he got Harden.

  • Andrew

    Raffi- actually Memphis could win tomorow vs LA and the Suns would still have playoff chances IF the Suns beat the Grizz and SAC And IF the Mavs beat the Grizz

  • the real al

    Yea, 14th pick doesnt sound too shabby.. but still, this was such a disappointing loss. Im gonna go eat junk food now..lol

  • the real al

    @andrew

    Now that dallas has clinched, you best believe carlisle will sit dirk and the other stars for that memphis game.. its a wrap suns fans.. was fun while it lasted.. im definitely looking forward to next season!!

  • Dan S

    Their season is still alive though, Memphis doesn’t have to lose LAL though (but hey, they could..Suns did) Phx has to win Monday to move into a tie with them and then win Wed. against Sacto and hope Dallas beats Memphis (which may not happen if they rest starters because I’m pretty sure Dallas has gauranteed 7th, and it’s likely because Dirk, Marion and Vince are so old.

  • DBreezy

    Sunsn7,

    Maybe it’s years of Spurs beatdowns of our Suns, but I tend to think playoff or playoff level intensity games like this tend to turn on little things execution wise that often occur earlier in the game-especially if you’re trying to win on the road. Careless turnovers early that either lead to opponents points or rob you of easy points. Ill advised shots when you have a chance to really put a team down big. Missed free throws. A lackadaisical boxout that gives a reeling team an easy put back and some energy. Letting someone go the distance and score with 4 secs to go in the half.

    What the last 8 mins of a game like this show is who can execute better down the stretch, which most of us knew already considering the inexperience of this team. If you play well enough early, you leave yourself margin as an inexperienced team to work through those times.

  • sunsn7

    Yes DBreezy, good look on the comparison to Morey..and how it compares to Dragic/ Bledsoe and where the Suns go with Green..Tucker.

  • sunsn7

    Well put DBreezy, Suns looked liked they had Nash’s infamous 4th qtr legs late..and it was because of adrenalin management, which you eloquently touched on.

    You aren’t an old school azc favorite for nothing Breeze. Awesome insight.

  • vtsunrise

    This one really, really hurt.

    Had I known there was a live game thread going on, I might have been able to vent. Lack of experience and poise. Bledsoe has talent but a lot of maturing to do. Green was like a demented chicken on speed with his head cut off in that key bizarre possession.

    Sad and bitter taste remains.

  • DBreezy

    Sunsn7,

    That was the biggest game for me since the old AZC days and the Suns/Lakers WCF. I actually broke out the jersey at home and did some pacing in front of the tv like the old days. I’m proud to say that my wife went shopping when the game started because she didn’t want to hear the noise!

  • foreveris2long

    Wow, really a tough loss Gang. It is tough to admit but we just are not as talented as the Mavs especially when you consider the vets they have. We need a long shot blocker/low post defender in a big way.

    We had some players not show tonight but they do not have experience playing a critical role in a meaningful game.

    D’Breezy the concern was when you said yesterday a lot of Suns were exposed including Bled. My only point really was IMO he is too young to be exposed. I saw a little of the Warriors Lakers yesterday where Curry had a triple double with 6 turnovers. However they won despite the TOs. The difference is the Warriors are more talented than the Suns.

    While I agree Bled should have laid the ball up instead of passing it at the end of the game, unless he was instructed accordingly, I am just not that critical of his overall game because he only turned 24 four months ago. However I can definitely respect the opinions to the contrary.

    It does seem unjust when the young players get heavy criticism when they do not play well despite the fact they are not suppose to be in a playoff race. I just kind of roll with it but that is just me. We are always good D’Breeze.

    EBJM you know we are good.

  • EBJM

    Of course, I never thought otherwise.

  • EBJM

    So DBreezy in your analogy with the post Ming and pre Harden Rockets are you suggesting the Suns package some picks and a player like Dragic for a true Super-Star?

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    I don’t think anyone is too old or young to be exposed in a given game, but I do think the perspective of where you take it matters. I wasn’t saying that Bledsoe’s play meant that he shouldn’t be retained or that he was doomed going forward. More that the intensity of these last few weeks have shown his weaknesses in a light we didn’t see earlier in the year. There’s still plenty of time for him to work on it and I don’t see any reason attitude wise he can’t. He’s gotta work a lot on reads though as it’s not natural for him timing wise as he’s not a selfish player. He’s had that problem since Kentucky. Btw I tend to doubt that Bled was instructed to look for a 3pt shooter yesterday by Horny’s reaction which was also reported on Twitter by Coro.

    We’ll see what they do with him this summer, I have a feeling the decision may be fluid not so much because of his game but because McD is going to explore every trade option out there.

  • DBreezy

    EBJM,

    I think that’s s exactly what McD is fishing for, but I don’t know if it will be available to him. I do think he drafts best available with all 3 picks because of it and continues to try and wheel and deal vs standing pat with this team. I don’t expect him to hand out any lifetime achievement awards based on this season so guys like PJ might get upset at how is RFA situation plays out. Same goes for the Morii in extensions and possibly Green if he tries to milk this season’s performance into an early extension.

  • sunsn7

    If ANY package is made, it must be to move into the draft lotto’s top 5..If any incoming “superstar” wants to be a Sun, it should be via free agency.

    Now you number crunchers/ analytical experts can clarify why that’s not a good idea?

  • sunsn7

    And hope the tone reads right on that question because it’s sincere.

    Because if they can get into the drafts’ top 5..

  • EBJM

    Sunsn7 I don’t think it really matters how, McD will do whatever it takes IMO.

  • Voqar

    The thing that is horrible about the last two games is, you want to say Bledsoe can defend – yet Ellis gets a season high. You want to say Tucker can defend – yet Green goes for a career high or something in the previous game.

    Good defenses don’t give up that many points to one player on so many wide open looks.

    It also never helps when Bledsoe is good for numerous utterly moronic unforced turnovers per game – he just doesn’t cherish the rock enough.

    All his steals and great plays are nullified by the defensive nonexistence and mental lapses and carelessness.

  • Voqar

    …not to mention that bench is usually one of our strong points but they let 100 year old vince carter get anything he wanted most of the time. C’mon…