With the 2023-24 season looming closer, information about the upcoming schedule is beginning to reveal itself. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Phoenix Suns are set to host rivals Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day.
The Phoenix/Dallas clash joins a number of massive games, including the Los Angeles Lakers taking on their long time rival in the Boston Celtics. Two past champions also face off when the Golden State Warriors, who will face Phoenix on Opening Night, head to Denver to take on the Nuggets.
With a number of rivals doing battle on Christmas Day, it makes sense that the Suns will face their biggest rival in the Mavericks.
Both the Mavericks and Suns will be bringing their all to this clash, with a lot of pride at stake come tip-off. In the past few years, the two clubs have been massive rivals and competed in some thrilling, high stakes matchups.
Both teams have a lot in common, as both have been competing at a high level in the Western Conference the past few seasons. Both teams are also led by homegrown superstars in Devin Booker and Luka Doncic, and have tried to build super teams around them by acquiring star talent.
The rivalry blossomed in the 2021-22 NBA Playoffs, where the pair faced off in the Western Conference semi-finals. After coming off a trip the season prior to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Suns looked the favorites to win the series, led by a big three of Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton.
A hard fought series played out between the two across the first four games, as the Suns and Mavericks split the series 2-2. However, the Suns made a statement by blowing out the Mavericks by 30 points. Doncic famously left the game, stating that “everybody acts tough when they’re up.”
The Mavericks proceeded to win games six and seven, eliminating the Suns who were favorites to win the entire conference. Dallas’ game seven win was particularly disappointing for Suns fans, with Doncic dominating with 35 points in a 33 point win for the Mavs.
Doncic’s personal history with the Suns goes back even further, as the Suns passed on him with the number one pick to select Deandre Ayton. While Ayton has been a solid player for the Suns and continues to develop, Suns fans will always wonder how drafting a player like Doncic would have impacted the team.
While the rivalry between the pair has already heated up over the past few seasons, two major trades for both teams last season made this rivalry one of the most intriguing in the league. Both teams managed to secure superstar talent, with the Suns trading for Kevin Durant and the Mavericks acquiring Kyrie Irving.
The two players famously joined forces at the Brooklyn Nets, creating a big three with James Harden. This big three did not have the success the Nets had hoped for, with Harden eventually being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Irving and Durant eventually also were traded away from the team.
After the failure of their Nets super team and joining two rival clubs, both players will be out to prove that they still have what it takes to win another championship.
In their first clash since joining rival clubs, the pair put up massive numbers in what was an offensive showcase. Durant led the way with 37 points, while Irving had 30 points. The Suns managed to scrape by and beat the Mavericks in a thriller.
With a full offseason under their belts, the duos of Booker/Durant and Doncic/Irving will hopefully continue their development as dominant duos ready to take this rivalry and their teams to another level. The Christmas Day slot is a perfect prime time avenue for the teams to draw first blood against each other to kick off their season series.
The Suns and Mavericks rivalry may be a newer rivalry, however the recent history between the players and their squads on both sides make this one of the biggest rivalries in the NBA. This clash is certainly a must watch on Christmas Day.