Opening night for the Phoenix Suns at home at the Footprint Center, and facing the Dallas Mavericks the team that ended their magical season last year.
Devin Booker spoke about this game during the week and he downplayed it to “just be just one game out of 82” he also added “I know everyone wants to make it about that game 7 but it’s a long season” its hard to believe that all of the Suns players would not want some form of revenge in this game.
The Suns would have to protect from being too amped up coming into tonight, and see how they would respond when things get a little out of hand.
Adversity would stick quickly in the game, as DeAndre Ayton got into early foul trouble, and as soon as he hit the bench the Maverick began to take over the game in the paint.
The Dallas lead in this game got to 22, and they jumped all over the Suns early.
The Suns bench struggled early to score the ball and only scored six points in the first half.
Coming into this game the bench was one of the team’s question marks, and it looked very bleak after two quarters.
Ayton getting into foul trouble is a product of being to amped up for this game, and the whistles from the referees were quick on the touch of contact.
Head Coach Monty Williams was trying every combination of rotations to get a spark for his team, while at the same time always having at least two starters on the floor.
The first rotation of subs featured Landale, Payne, and Craig playing with Booker and Bridges, and Ayton on the bench in foul trouble with three.
Halftime 62-45 and a little momentum going into the half when Mikal Bridges beat the buzzer with a layup that cut the lead down to 17.
In the third quarter, we saw a regenerated Suns team, they looked so much more active and lively coming out of the half, and attach the Mavericks with smothering defense.
After the game Monty said Booker got the guys together when they were down 15, and said Booker told the guys “we’ve been here before” and that calmed the seas for the team and they started to look like the 64-win Suns a season ago.
Depp into the third quarter Devin Booker picked up a foul on a charging call, and in the process tweaked an ankle and limp back down the court waiving off Coach Monty’s sub for him.
The Suns at the half were shooting 22% from the three-point line and the Mavericks shot 47% and looked a lot like last year’s beat down.
The only difference is the Suns didn’t quit, they chipped away at the lead and went into the fourth quarter down only five.
Luka Doncic scored a game-high 35 to lead the Mavericks and the third and fourth quarter feature center Christian Woods scoring in the paint and shooting the three and scoring 13 straight Mavericks points by himself.
Starter Cameron Johnson went out of the game in the fourth quarter with cramping in his leg, from chasing and bumping with Doncic for three and half quarters.
The bench of the Suns picked up their game and their defense began to force Doncic and the Mavs to take the long threes that were falling early and not so much late in the game.
Ayton was the key to the spark in the second half, he begin to seal his man in the paint getting position and scoring down low.
Ayton had four points at the half and would have a 14-point second half that would catapult the Suns offense and defense in the paint.
Footprint Center started to sound like it did during the playoffs, as the game got into the last five minutes and the guys on the court in crush time were a little different than usual.
In particular, Monty took Chris Paul out for his usual breather and said that he was going to put him back in the last three minutes to finish the game, but Cam Payne and the group that was on the floor were playing so well that Chris finished the game as a cheerleader on the bench.
Energy and effort got the Suns back in the game and star power would help them finish it with a big win.
On the floor in crunch time were Ayton, Bridges, Payne, Booker, and Lee.
One of the questions for the Suns was where will they get their scoring from outside of the usual suspects, and that was answered tonight by the big game shooter Damion Lee.
Lee scored all of his 11 points in the fourth with three key big three-pointers and the winning shot from the baseline.
The winning shot in the final seconds of the game had the ball in Devin Booker’s hands, and when the double team came, Booker didn’t force the issue and moved the ball to a willing Damion Lee.
Damion took the ball at the top of the elbow three area and drove to the baseline with a series of fakes and faded away hitting the bottom of the net with a swish shot.
The Suns defense in the second was so tight that the Mavericks didn’t try and challenge them much in the paint, they settled for several step-back long threes from Doncic and others missing on threes late.
This opened the door for the Suns to complete the comeback, and after the results of tonight’s game maybe the question about where the scoring is coming from got answered with the former Warrior Damion Lee taking big shots in big games.
Lee’s former teammate Steph Curry tweeted after the game screaming out in joy that his former brother hit the game-winner, being in an offense like Golden State where shooting the three is encouraged.
The way the game ended with the unit on the floor, we will see if Lee will creep his way in the lineup in crunch time more and more, and maybe this will also help in saving the legs of Chris Paul throughout the season.