Thursday marks a matchup between the Dallas Mavericks (8-10) and the Phoenix Suns (7-12). Times have changed for the perennial playoff squads as both teams are below .500. For the longest time, a matchup between the Mavericks and the Suns would be considered must-see television. Now, this is a matchup between two teams that are still trying to find their way. Radio play-by-play announcer for the Dallas Mavericks Chuck Cooperstein made a note that this game will be the first game between the Mavericks and the Suns since March of 1998 that won’t have either Steve Nash or Dirk Nowitzki in the game.
The Mavericks suffered an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. That marked the first night of a back-to-back for the Mavericks. Dallas is 1-4 in the first half of a back-to-back and 1-3 in the second half of a back-to-back this season. The Mavericks have 16 back-to-backs in 2012-13, with only one stretch of four games in five nights. In total, 10 back-to-backs are on the road, three begin at home and conclude on the road and three are road-to-home. Dallas played 22 back-to-backs in 2011-12, going 7-15 in the first half and 13-9 in the second half of those back-to-backs.
Dallas has to get out of the funk they’re currently in. The Mavericks are currently 2-7 on road and have lost 13 of their last 15 games, including the playoffs. They have lost four of five overall. To make matters worse, blowouts have been coming in surges against the Mavericks. They have had four losses by at least 20 points this season, but three of them have come within the last five games. Even with the chaos of last season, Dallas only had four games where they lost by 20 or more points. Dallas will be looking to get back on track tonight in Phoenix.
Here are notes for the game between the Mavericks and the Suns.
The Suns snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Mavericks in the regular season with a 96-94 win at home on 3/8/12. It was the Suns’ longest losing streak against any NBA team in 14 years, since they lost eight in a row to the Lakers from November 1995 to January 1998 (11/29/95-1/21/98). Dallas has still taken 13 of the last 16 regular-season meetings with the Suns. The Suns have taken 18 of the last 29 matchups in Phoenix, but the Mavericks have won five of the last eight in The Valley of the Sun. Shawn Marion scored a season-high 29 points against Phoenix on 1/23/12. It tied his highest scoring game as a Maverick (29 at Minnesota 3/8/10). Marion averaged a team-high 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 29.3 minutes in four games (all starts) against Phoenix last season.
Vince Carter averaged 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 26.7 minutes in three games (two starts) against the Suns in 2011-12. The Mavericks and the Suns met once in the 2012 preseason (at Dallas on 10/17/12) and Phoenix recorded a 100-94 win. Jared Dudley scored a team-high 16 points for the Suns in the win on 10/17/12, while Chris Kaman totaled a game-high-tying 16 points for Dallas in the loss.
It’s a Small World:
Mavericks forward Shawn Marion was selected by Phoenix in the first round (ninth overall pick) of the 1999 NBA Draft and played for the Suns from 1999-2008, garnering Western Conference All-Star honors four times (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007). Vince Carter played in 51 games (41 starts) for the Suns during the 2010-11 season, averaging 13.5 points. He was waived by Phoenix on 12/9/11 and signed by Dallas three days later (12/12/11).
Mavericks guard Derek Fisher and Suns guard Shannon Brown were teammates on the L.A. Lakers for two-and-a-half seasons from 2009-11 and won back-to-back NBA championships together in 2009 and 2010. Suns forward Wesley Johnson is from Corsicana, Texas, and played for the Dallas Mustangs AAU team. Rick Carlisle coached Suns center Jermaine O’Neal for three seasons in Indiana from 2003-06. Suns assistant coach Elston Turner was drafted by Dallas with the 43rd overall pick of the 1981 NBA Draft and played three seasons for the Mavericks from 1981-84. Mavericks athletic trainer Casey Smith was formerly the strength and conditioning coach for the Suns.
1. Play under control. Dallas simply has to fix their issue with the turnovers. Weirdly enough, they’re in the middle in the pack in terms of turnovers allowed per 100 possessions. They’re turnover percentage is at 14.3 percent. That means for every 100 possessions, they turn the ball over roughly 14 times. The 14.3 TOV% ranks 15th in the league. It feels like they should be much worse, but that just goes to show that the issue comes and goes. When it is a problem, it is an extreme problem. Simply put, Dallas has to play with more poise.
2. Take whatever Phoenix will give you. The Suns rank last in the league in terms of points allowed per game (102.9). While they allow teams to shoot a league worst 42.3 percent from 3-point range, the Mavericks need to avoid just trying to live at the line as they allow teams to shoot an astonishing 47.0 from the field (third worst in the league). Poise in terms of turning the ball over can work just as well when they operate in the halfcourt setting. Just work over the Suns’ defense and get whatever you can get.
3. Watch out for Goran Dragic. Fans should remember Dragic as he was a potential target for the Mavericks during the free agency period this summer. Teams like the Mavericks weren’t enthused to give Dragic the money he ended up making in Phoenix, especially due to the fact he didn’t have a large sample size as a starting point guard. It appears Dragic is proving the doubters wrong. He’s currently averaging 15.5 points, 6.6 assists and 1.89 steals. Dragic is nearly on pace to become one of three players in franchise history to average 16.0 points, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals in a single season. Kevin Johnson reached that milestone during the 1990-91 season. Former Maverick Jason Kidd accomplished the feat twice during his time with the Suns, during the 1998-99 season and the 2000-01 season. Dargic will be a pest on both ends of the floor, so the Mavericks need to be ready for 48 minutes of hell with Dragic.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.