Game Report: Phoenix Suns produce astonishing comeback in 24-point turnaround

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Who said the Phoenix Suns lack bench depth, or that their offseason additions were less than ideal? That’s being facetious sure, but it was a new Sun, Damion Lee, who proved the hero in the team’s season opener.

The former Warrior had 11 fourth-quarter points, and crucially the game-winner, as the Suns energised Footprint Center with a remarkable win against the Dallas Mavericks following a 22-point deficit early in the third.

The Phoenix Suns produced a remarkably tough comeback win, exorcising some demons in the 107-105 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

The first half had an eerily similar feel to game seven, even if the scoreline wasn’t quite as stunning. Both sides struggled early offensively, before the leading villain, Luka Doncic, began to orchestrate his usual magic.

His 13 points in the opening period gave the Mavericks a 32-24 lead, while Devin Booker begun heating up late in the quarter to lead the Suns with nine points. The bigger issue actually came with the respective stars off the floor, with Phoenix producing a jarring and downright atrocious beginning to the second.

Deandre Ayton found himself in foul trouble, limiting him to just over seven first half minutes. Without him, Chris Paul simply didn’t have the requisite options to instrument an efficient two-man game. Monty Williams also seemed intent on giving every active player a run, using 12 players by halfway through the second. It’s hard to evaluate whether that had an impact on offensive rhythm, but either way the Suns had just seven points in the opening seven minutes of the quarter

Conversely, without Doncic, Dallas had enough shot-creation from Spencer Dinwiddie and Christian Wood. The bench scoring differential was always going to be a major factor, with the Mavericks leading that category 17-7 in the first half.

The Suns offense picked up once Booker and Bridges returned, yet they still had no answer for Doncic on the other end. Phoenix, to their credit, tried different looks despite Bridges having the primary role. At times they’d switch everything, almost too easily, but then the Slovenian would isolate and destroy the mismatch. On other occasions they’d trap and double, only for Doncic to find the right pass on every occasion.

Luka Doncic gets to the rim against the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Luka Doncic gets to the rim against the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Mavericks took a 62-45 lead into halftime, before proceeding to score the first five of the third. Against an elite half court defense, the Suns simply needed some stops to generate vibrant energy on the offensive end. They brought that, all of a sudden forcing Doncic into tougher shots and discombobulating the Mavericks offense.

The threes began to fall in transition and within minutes, Phoenix had cut a 22-point lead to six. The defensive intensity grew — Doncic doubles turned into quick rotations, forcing others to make four of five passes in a row. That’s an uncomfortable situation for Dallas to be in, leading to a number of turnovers. Offensively, Ayton looked fresh and began to find opportunities in the pick-and-roll.

Dallas took an 81-76 lead into the fourth, before the same issues from the first half almost fatally reared their head again. Without Doncic or Booker on the floor, Wood took control of the game with 16 straight points. After all their hard work, Phoenix were again down 15 with 8:30 to play.

The Suns weren’t done with though, producing the sort of grit and toughness they simply failed to in game seven. Booker came back in and took out his do-it-yourself kit, with a little help from Lee.

His three triples elevated the second wave of the Suns comeback, only this was much more ferocious than the first. Phoenix battled all the way back and flew by a stagnant Mavericks offense. It was a sensational response, made all the more remarkable by Paul and Johnson’s stapling to the Suns bench.

With a 104-100 lead, Phoenix still had work to do in the last 90 seconds. The game was back in the balance when Lee fouled Doncic on a made layup, tying the game at 105 with 32.8 seconds to play. Lee made up for the play though, delivering a tough fall away jumpshot that proved the difference. Doncic’s game-winning attempt fell short as the Suns completed the exhilarating comeback.

Booker led the way with 28 points, four rebounds and seven assists, while Ayton delivered in the second half with 18 points and ten rebounds. Bridges too recorded a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, including some enormous ones on the offensive glass.

Doncic may have had 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but the Suns almost looked more comfortable at times when he was on the floor. He was a -16 in the game, with Wood a +9 in his 25-point performance.

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It may not make up for the game seven defeat of last season, but Phoenix have to feel good about overcoming the monumental challenge that was placed in front of them. They’ll hope this is a weight lifted off their shoulders, that they can now play freer in the knowledge they’ve overcome the Mavericks hoodoo to some extent.