Mavs hope big men can 'stop the bleeding' vs. Suns
The Dallas Mavericks plan to offer a new look Monday night when they expect big men Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber to be available for their rematch with the visiting Phoenix Suns.
Deandre Ayton dominated the middle and Chris Paul came on strong late as the Suns rallied past the Mavericks 111-105 on Saturday night in the opener of the two-game set in Dallas.
With Porzingis resting on the second night of a back-to-back and Kleber still not cleared following a COVID issue, the Mavericks used Willie Cauley-Stein and Dwight Powell as their primary big men Saturday.
They combined for 22 points and 11 rebounds, but also for 12 fouls, each fouling out.
The Suns turned the Mavericks' 26 fouls into a 31-14 edge in free throw attempts and a 27-8 dominance in points from the line, helping them offset Dallas' 53.0-45.7 advantage in field-goal percentage.
With All-Star Devin Booker out for a fourth straight game while dealing with a strained left hamstring, Paul took charge in the fourth quarter, which began with the Suns down by five. Paul poured in 16 points in the period, helping the Suns outscore the Mavericks 34-23 to win their second straight.
Booker remains doubtful for Monday's game.
Ayton (18 points, 17 rebounds) enjoyed being able to focus on rebounding down the stretch as everyone watched Paul take over the game offensively.
"I feel so honored just to be in those crunch-time minutes," he said. "I was happy that I wasn't in no foul trouble. Big ups to coach for trusting me and believing me."
Dallas has lost five in a row and eight of its last 10.
"We're bleeding," Cauley-Stein assessed. "We're trying to stop the bleeding."
The win was Phoenix's second of the season over their Western Conference rival. With Booker leading the way, the Suns prevailed in another close one, 106-102 at home on opening night, again with the Mavericks missing Porzingis.
The former All-Star has played in just nine games this season, and Dallas has lost six of them. He has not played his best ball of late, averaging 15.0 points on 36.0-percent shooting in his last three games.
Porzingis has enjoyed seeing the Suns in the past. He had 30 points in a meeting in the Florida bubble last August, the third time in nine career head-to-heads that he's gone for 30 or more against Phoenix.
The NBA's new same-opponent, same-site, two-game sets have not been friendly to the Mavericks, who lost by 12 and 19 points at Utah last week. Dallas will host another later this week when Golden State comes to town.
Another key for the Suns in Saturday's win was a 30-27 advantage in points scored on 3-pointers despite taking seven fewer treys. Jae Crowder bombed in 4 of 9 to account for all but two of his 14 points.
Luka Doncic had three of the Mavericks' nine 3-pointers. He finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
In two games against the Suns this season, Doncic has yet to record a double-double.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 31, 2021