Phoenix- For the second time this season the Phoenix Suns (16-14) handed the Dallas Mavericks (20-10) a big loss by defeating their Western Conference rival 124-115  in front of the first sell-out...

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Eric Bledsoe got his second career triple double, the Hydra finished the game together for the Suns fourth straight win.

The Phoenix Suns used a back-breaking middle two quarters to run over the Dallas Mavericks, behind Goran Dragic's 23 points, Eric Bledsoe's second career triple double and Isaiah Thomas' ability to draw late fouls and make free throws.

This makes four straight games - and four straight wins - that the three point guards have finished the game together.

The Mavericks got to within 7 points with a minute left on a run of three-pointers by the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki (22 points overall) and Monta Ellis. Tyson Chandler was a beast with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Overall, the Mavericks shot better than the Suns (47% to 45%) but the Suns held on to win a big game.

First quarter

The Suns began the game just like they've played most all their other home games - with a defensive turnstile that was overgreased. The Mavs mad 5 of their first 7 shots and had no answer for the Mavs in a 22-12 deficit to start.

The Mavs began substituting then, and the Suns got back into it thanks to a couple of Gerald threes and some hustle from Miles Plumlee and P.J. Tucker. But they gave the Mavs four chances to score at the end of the quarter thanks to real bad rebounding efforts.

Suns down 26-25 at the end of one.

Second quarter

Each team started sloppy, with turnovers and missed WIIIIDE open shots. The Suns could not hit open threes, or open layups, or open free throws (is there any other kind?).

In fact, the Suns didn't score for nearly five minutes, after getting down by 7 even though the Mavs appeared to be trying to keep it close.

In other words, the quarter started ugly.

Then Rondo made a three, meaning he's at least as good at scoring as Gerald Green this quarter.

Hornacek went to the Hydra with 5 minutes left in the second. I mean, if you're already giving up tons of offensive boards why not, right?

It worked, of course. The Suns got the tempo up real high and took the lead at 44-41 before the Mavericks could call a timeout to stem the tide. And the tide was definitely in the Suns favor at this point.

By the end of the second, it was a 53-45 Suns lead behind the spin cycle called the Hydra.

Third Quarter

The Suns completely blew the door off the game in the third, taking a 19-point lead at one point and leaving the Mavericks shaking their heads in frustration. Only Charlie Villanueva kept the Mavs in the game, and that's all I need to say about that. Villanueva led the Mavs with 15 points in three quarters.

The Suns made 5 of 7 three-pointers in the third and shot 57% overall and took an 89-74 lead at the end of three.

Goran Dragic had 21 points in 28 minutes while Gerald Green had 12 in 14 minutes, while Alex Len had 15 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes. But he had 4 fouls already. Good thing Miles Plumlee was playing well - with 8 rebounds in 13 minutes.

Fourth Quarter

In the 4th, the Suns did not let their foot off the gas no matter much their instinct may have told them to (I mean, how else can you explain the first 29 games?).

Both teams kept in their starters while the Mavericks tried to make a run, but the Suns kept the lead as the Mavericks kept missing.

The Suns played hard, made the extra passes and despite not shooting well they dominated the game against the Mavericks.

The game got so out of hand (even more than the score) that the Suns started having a dunk fest and the Mavericks were having none of it.

And then the Suns DID let off the gas, and Dallas was suddenly within 11 after 5 straight points - a three from Nowitzki and a steal/layup by Rondo.

Still 4 minutes left.

Eric Bledsoe then scored the next 5 points to put the lead back to 16 with a minute left. Dirk continued Dirking though, scoring 7 more to make it 12 straight points to cut it to 9 with 1:41 left. The Mavericks later cut it to 7 but just ran out of time and big shots.

This is a big win for the Suns, the second in a row.

Phoenix- In case you missed it, Rajon Rondo was recently added in a trade with the Boston Celtics, which gives the Dallas Mavericks (20-7) a seemingly perfect addition to what is already the highest...

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A preview of the Suns' home game vs. Dallas. Coming off a 3-0 trip, the Suns try to end a three-game home losing streak.

      
 
 

The last time these two teams met, the Phoenix Suns experienced probably their best win of the season to date by beating the (then) 15-5 Mavericks in Dallas 126-122 to improve to 12-8 on the season. The win was important because the Suns were kicking off a killer road trip, with upcoming games against Houston and the LA Clippers.

The Suns led virtually the whole game and left fans wondering if that win could spark a long streak of goodness. Well, the Mavericks win did spark a long streak but of the bitter variety as the Suns went on to lose six consecutive games after that, punctuated by two buzzer-beating three pointers.

The Suns have since found their footing by sweeping a three-game road trip back east, including a strong win over the 19-7 Washington Wizards on Sunday night and now come home to face the Dallas Mavericks before Christmas.

The Mavericks

Two games ago, the Dallas Mavericks improved their playoff possibilities with the acquisition of Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics for a backup big man, a backup point guard and a backup shooting guard. Not a bad exchange.

So far, the Mavericks and Rondo are getting used to each other. Rondo, who generally can't hit a barn door with a slingshot from ten feet away, has been hit-sometimes-but-mostly-miss in the Mavericks five-shooter offensive scheme.

The Mavericks are built to score in bunches, and are nearly the exact opposite of the Houston Rockets in that their biggest weapon is the mid-range shot. As a team, they shoot 47.7% from the field on all shots, but in two games with Rondo they have shot just 43% (Rondo is 9-26 himself). They are 1-1 in those games, with the only win a 99-93 affair over a San Antonio team playing without Ginobili, Parker, Green, Duncan and Splitter.

See their shot chart, according to Statmuse.com

The Mavericks are the kings of the mid-range game, a slap in the face of analytics gurus with a nod to NBA days gone by. Remember, NBA teams in the 80s thrived on mid-range shots and scored more then than teams do now.

It will be interesting to see how long the Mavericks take to gel with Rondo in the lineup. Let's hope that takes at least one more game to be realized.

The Suns

The Suns, meanwhile, have a more 21st-century shot chart predicated on threes, dunks and layups. They are 2nd in the league in three-point attempts per shot attempt, tossing up 3s more often than last year even. Part of that is that opponents are clogging the paint defensively, begging the Suns to beat them from the perimeter. So far, that tactic is working, the Suns are only 17th in overall field goal percentage and 11th in three-point percentage. Not scary.

What's totally fascinating to me is the difference between the Suns shot charts on the road (where they are 9-7, including 7-1 against the lowly East) versus at home (where they are 6-7, including 2-5 against the lowly East).

It's like two different teams!

On the road, the Suns are much hotter from the three-point line and lean to the right (when facing the basket), but at home they are hotter from mid-range while leaning left on the threes.

What gives? Isn't this the same team with the same players in the same scheme?

A look at individual players' shot charts shows that the bench - Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Marcus Morris, Alex Len - actually shoot better on the road than they do at home, while Bledsoe and Dragic shoot better at home.

Let's look at the Suns shot charts year over year - last year's 48-34 team vs this year's 15-14 team so far.

You'd think with the same coach and 8 of the same rotation players, the Suns would like similar. But they DON'T. This year's team relies a lot more on midrange shots and has switched hot corners.

This switch is inherent in the one main personnel change: Channing Frye vs. Isaiah Thomas. The Suns are taking even more threes and making more shots at the rim this season thanks to Isaiah Thomas' highly efficient scoring model that matches Dragic and Bledsoe's.

But something that has nothing at all to do with Channing/Isaiah is that Marcus Morris has morphed from an analytics dream last year to a mid-range maven this year.

The ink blots haven't changed much, but the darkness has - meaning that he's not scoring from the same places this year as a year ago.

And even more fascinating is Marcus' shot distribution/scoring on the road vs. at home this year.

Again, the ink blots haven't changed much but the frequency of scoring is different for Marcus at home vs. on the road, and that's true of many of the players.

Okay, enough with the shot charts. Thanks for indulging me. StatMuse.com is a new service that I've been fortunate enough to get a chance to beta test. They've got a ton more to give - I just like shot charts.

How they compare

Lineups

Prediction

This one's going to be a barn-burner, I think. And hopefully in the Suns' favor. The Suns play up/down to their competition, so they should be quite focused against the Dallas Mavericks who have been tabbed as an NBA Finals contender with Rondo at the helm.

Suns by 2 (on a missed three by Dirk at the buzzer!)

Go Suns!

Interested in playing Daily Fantasy Basketball with the chance to win money? Sign up for FanDuel here! You can bet on Suns players against the Mavs, or even Mavs players against the Suns. Whatever floats yer boat.

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