With the Phoenix Suns’ stars in foul trouble, the Dallas Mavericks allowed their bench to surge in the third quarter to climb back in and secure the win.
After a disappointing loss on Friday to the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks were looking to right their wrongs on Sunday night. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns’ bench was the deciding factor and turning point in the game, with Dallas losing 117-115.
Just five minutes into the third quarter, Suns stars Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker both got their fifth fouls of the game. When you read that, you instantly think that this must be where things start trending upward for Dallas, but no.
After Ayton and Booker had to sit, the Suns’ bench showed out. At the time, Dallas was ahead by 11 points midway through the third, but a 14-3 run by the bench was the deciding factor in the game. The Suns’ bench outscored the Mavs’ bench 37-22 for the game.
Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic came up clutch in the final minute of the game, beginning with a driving layup by Doncic to bring it within two points and a Porzingis block on Ricky Rubio to keep it there. Dallas immediately called a timeout after the block to draw up a gameplan for a shot to either tie the game or win it with a 3-pointer.
Doncic received the inbound, but his pass to Tim Hardaway Jr. in the corner was deflected out of bounds, leaving just 13.7 seconds remaining. Dallas inbounded again to find Porzingis on the wing and he attempted a stepback three over Ayton and it missed, but upon the miss it was deflected out of bounds again by the Suns, leaving just 3.3 seconds left. Doncic inbounded the ball to Hardaway for a contested three and it misses off the front of the rim and Dallas lets another lead slip away resulting in a loss.
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was pleased for the most part with the play of the team throughout, but realizes where the team went wrong:
“The third quarter was the decisive part of the game, that’s pretty obvious. We did a few good things in the fourth to get right there again, but when you play as poorly as we did in the third, you just leave too many things to chance. It’s unfortunate because really the other three quarters were quite good. We could’ve defended a little better in the second, but the first quarter was one of our best in the two games. Disappointing.”
Not only did the Mavs allow a surge by the Suns’ bench, but they were also missing tons of shots from distance in the second half. Dallas went 1-for-18 from beyond the arc in the second half and 6-for-31 from deep for the game.
Dallas has lost their last two games by a combined six points. The Mavs now are 2-10 in games decided by three points or fewer, 6-18 in games decided by five points or fewer. This also was their 6th loss in which they led by 14 or more points and a league-high 13th defeat after leading by double figures.
Dallas clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 earlier in the day on Sunday with the Memphis Grizzlies’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs. However, if the Mavs don’t fix their second-half struggles, they won’t last long in the playoffs.
Porzingis, who had his 25th birthday on Sunday, realizes those late-game struggles and knows the team must do better going forward:
“It’s been a little bit of an issue throughout the year. We’ve been focusing on that, it’s not like it’s something that we just let slide. We’ve been focusing on coming out strong in the third, but today again we had this mental lapse for whatever reason at some moments and that’s something we gotta work through to take it to the next level, to not give the other team any room; just go out there and finish the game like we are supposed to. This is definitely something that’s on our minds and we are working to be a great team.”
Porzingis and Doncic combined for 70 points, with both players shooting at least 50 percent from the field. It’s the first loss of the season in which Doncic scored 40 or more points, previously 4-0. Another big game from the stars in Dallas, but it was overshadowed by crunch time failures yet again.
Doncic played big, especially at the free throw line, going 18-for-19 and setting a career-high in makes from the foul line. Though since the NBA restart in the Mavs’ two games, Doncic has gone a horrific 1-for-12 from beyond the arc.
As the losses pile up in the NBA bubble, a two seed vs seven seed matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers becomes more and more likely. Per basketball reference, the Mavs’ odds of finishing 7th in West increased from 78.7 percent entering last night to 92.9 percent afterward. Meanwhile, the Clippers’ odds of finishing 2nd are 92.7 percent.
The Dallas Mavericks will look ahead to Tuesday afternoon where they will take on the Sacramento Kings on Fox Sports Southwest at 2:30 PM EST and try again for their first win in the NBA bubble.