PHOENIX – Prior to Saturday night’s game in Phoenix, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said about everything he could to note his team was prepared for the upstart Suns. “They’re...

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Both teams were on a back to back, so defense was not at a premium. The Phoenix Suns made 15-30 three point shots to beat the Mavericks without needing any of that missing defense.

Both teams left most of their defense at home on this night. The Dallas Mavericks defended the rim but not the jump shooters after rotations, while the Phoenix Suns didn't defend much of anything at all.

But the Suns made a lot more jumpers than the Mavericks, and that's the tale of the game of this high-scoring yet kinda boring game.

It was kinda like an All-Star game - lots of nice shots and moves on offense, good ball movement, and not a lick of defense to stop anyone. In other words, boring. Only mildly entertaining.

Maybe, probably, it's that both teams were on a back-to-back. Maybe it's the profile of both teams to win with offense. Maybe it's all that and more.

But the Suns won it and nothing else matters.

Suns 123, Mavericks 108

Marcus Morris (2-3), Gerald Green (4-8), Eric Bledsoe (3-4), Channing Frye (4-6) and P.J. Tucker (2-3) all made at least half of their 3-pt attempts on the night.

Bledsoe had 25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal while Gerald Green poured in 22 points off the bench.

Otherwise, the Suns outrebounded the Mavericks by 8 (mostly on their umpteen missed shots), and survived 18 turnovers and 8 blocked shots thanks to their shooting.

The Suns started the game with two turnovers, not a good start after the big win in Denver the other night. Luckily, the Mavericks were just as sketchy and the game stayed close until the Suns made a few threes and suddenly it was a 15-6 Suns lead before we knew what happened.

It was then that Mavericks coach Rick Carlysle did what Gregg Popovich did two games ago: he pulled his lumbering big after getting embarrassed by Channing Frye's three pointers. On Wednesday, Pop waited for 12 Frye points before pulling Tiago Splitter. In this game, Carlysle pulled DeJuan Blair after only six Frye points (two threes). Both times, it's the Suns forcing the other team to adapt.

(Side note: at one point, Jose Calderon fell over like he was shot. Bledsoe was called for the foul, but I think Calderon pulled a butt muscle. He stayed in the game, so it will be interesting to see how it progresses.)

The Mavericks then went really small - with Shawn Marion and Brandon Wright their bigs - to try to match the Suns speed and space the defense effectively, but it did not help much. After playing the last 20 minutes of the overtime loss on Friday night, Mavericks coach vowed to pull Dirk Nowitzki early and often tonight. Nowitzki sat after just 6 minutes in the first without having made a field goal yet (he was 4-4 on FTs).

Both teams went deep into their bench early on, after having played tough games the night before. By the three minute mark of the first quarter, with the Suns up 27-14, the Mavericks had three bench players out there (with Marion and Ellis) against the Suns' four bench players (and Bledsoe).

Gerald Green stayed hot from the night before, making his first three three-pointers, and the Suns ended the first quarter with a huge 38-25 lead.

The second quarter began worse for the Suns - allowing a 11-4 Mavericks start by committing multiple turnovers and taking bad shots. Only a Goodwin drive and nice post up turnaround by Markieff Morris resulted in points during the Mavericks' run.

By late in the second quarter, the Mavericks had pulled within three (47-44) despite making six fewer three-pointers to that point. They had taken 9 more shots than the Suns overall, plus three more FTs, thanks to the Suns turnovers (10) and their own offensive rebounding (7).

Gerald Green was such a force on three pointers after making his first three, he was fouled on two attempts to add 6 more points to his total the freebie way.

The game was basically a snooze-fest in that second quarter as the Suns sleepwalked to a 63-58 halftime score. That was the most boring 121-point first half I may have ever seen.

First half highlights:

  • Gerald Green had 15 of his 19 points on threes (3 made, plus 6 more free throws on fouls drawn)
  • Eric Bledsoe had 14 points, but he and Dragic had more turnovers (5) than assists (3) between them in the half
  • Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Wright had 34 of the Mavericks' 58 points

As it was on Wednesday night against the Spurs, the first team that plays consistent defense in the second half will win the game. Last time, it was the Spurs. This time, will it be the Suns?

Start of the second half.

The combination of Shawn Marion and Brandon Wright were really making it hard on the Suns to score in the paint, at one point forcing four consecutive putback misses by the Suns from point blank range and only allowing 16 first-half points in the paint.

But the Suns were making enough outside shots to make up for that deficit, and built the lead to 11 points (73-62) in just the first 2.5 minutes of the second half.

The Mavericks made another mini-run to cut the lead to 4, but then the Suns built it back up to 12 quickly.

Despite the Suns lead, the Mavericks were feasting on Suns drives, either knocking the ball away on the drive or swatting it at the rim.

But the Suns held strong, and took a 9 point lead into the 4th (91-82).

After Marcus Morris opened the 4th with a 3 to build the lead to 12, Vince Carter made a three, drew an offensive foul,  and dropped a sweet shot to keep the Mavericks in the game.

It's like Vince has something in for the Suns? Maybe it's bad memories of the Coalition to Light Vince Carter On Fire (fire-club president Scott Howard)? Carter had only a few months in Phoenix, but since then he appears he really relish in playing well against the Suns.

Both the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks are off to surprisingly good starts to the season, which makes a clash between the teams very exciting indeed. Former Suns Shawn Marion and Vince Carter return to the scene, usually bringing their A-games.

Phoenix Suns fans are no doubt still reveling in the 21-point comeback win last night IN DENVER to beat the 14-10 (now 14-11) Nuggets. But there's no rest for the weary. After an emotional win, the Suns will face the surging Dallas Mavericks in Phoenix tonight in another early-season clash of playoff contenders.

The opponent

The Dallas Mavericks are off to a big start mainly thanks to an 11-4 home record (vs. 4-8 road record). They have feasted on Eastern competition: 7-3 vs the East, 8-8 vs. the West. On back-to-backs, like tonight's game, the older Mavericks are a solid 4-3 so don't count on them dragging butt.

Their lineup and overall rotation is a collection of players very well known to Suns fans. From former MVP Dirk Nowitzki to to former Suns Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, they also boast a collection of players Suns fans wanted in trade in past years (Brandon Wright, DeJuan Blair) and long time NBA starters (Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon).

The Mavericks lineup is old. Five of their regular rotation players are 32 or older (Calderon, Dalembert, Nowitzki, Marion, Carter) while the Suns don't have a single active player (not counting Okafor) over 30.

Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki have been a great 1-2 punch for the Mavs, with Brandon Wright helping solidify the front line after returning this week from injury.

In a surprising note, the Mavericks have actually gone 5-2 on Saturday nights already this year.

The Suns

In looking at the Suns splits, it sure looks like they won't play well tonight: 0-1 on Saturdays (vs. Mavs 5-2 record), 1-4 on the second night of back-to-backs (vs. Mavs 4-3 record).

Where the Suns fair well is at home overall (8-4 vs. Mavs 4-8 road record) and against the West so far this year (Suns are 12-8 against the West, while the Mavs are 8-8).

The stats

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The Mavs assist and steal at a better rate than the Suns, but otherwise their stats are very similar.

The lineups

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DeJuan Blair took over several games ago in the starting lineup in place of Sam Dalembert, but otherwise both lineups are predictable.

The key matchup

As always for the Suns, a key matchup will be the guard play. The Suns Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have had a couple of bad nights in the shooting department, but overall they drive the success of the Suns with both averaging better than 18 and 6.

But really, the biggest matchup is anyone trying to cover the unguardable Dirk Nowitzki. That dude is so talented and talented, you might as well call him STAT. Can Channing Frye or Markieff Morris effectively keep Dirk off his game? Or will the extra attention to Dirk leave the lanes open for Ellis drives (leads the league with 10 drives a night) and Marion/Wright/Dalembert/etc feasting on the boards at each end?

The prediction

I want the Suns to win this game but I think it's really a toss up. The Suns are not good on the back end of back-to-backs, yet they are pretty good at home overall.

Suns by 4.

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSA The Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks match-up for the first time this season at the US Airways Center, and both are coming off close games last night. The Mavericks lost by...

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Were Monta Ellis and Jose Calderson good multi-year signings for the Dallas Mavericks? How have they contributed to a better-than-predicted start to the Mavericks' season (15-11), and are the Mavericks a playoff team? Answers inside.

The Phoenix Suns play the Dallas Mavericks tonight, a team that's eerily similar to the Suns at least in the stats department. Good offense, middling-to-bad defense, two big scorers carrying the nightly load.

I got some good intel on the new-look Mavs - 15-11 on the year - from editor Rebecca Lawson at SB Nation's Mavs Moneyball.

Bright Side: Going back to the summer, were Mavs fans skeptical of the long term deals given to Ellis and Calderon, considering the long-time plan to clear the decks for superstars? Or, were fans ready for this?

Rebecca Lawson, Mavs Money Ball: The initial reaction was very mixed. One set of thinking (and I fall on this side) was relieved to see the Mavs move on to a viable non-superstar based Plan B, in the sense of not having a "rental team" (like the one year deals last year) and getting guys who could just...play well. I mean, the Mavs started Mike James at point guard for a significant portion of last season. No offense to my favorite team, but I might have revolted if they had not spent out on the best available point guard.

For those who were vocally skeptical, it wasn't so much about the length of the deals as the cost. Calderon's deal is 4/$28M, which is a very substantial commitment to a player on the wrong side of 30. Monta's 3/$25M (last year a player option) is a little less controversial and especially so in hindsight. It is quite a bit of money to commit to two players, but sometimes to get the best player available you have to spend. And with Dirk likely taking a very substantial pay cut next year, the Mavs should still be absolutely fine to spend heavily again next summer.

Bottom line, the front office wanted to get guys who could compliment Dirk and keep the team competitive in his final few years in the league, and they've done that. Any skepticism about those signings has quieted down now that they appear to be as advertised (Calderon) or better than advertised (Monta).

How has Monta Ellis matured this season in Dallas? There have been reports of improved maturity and smarter play. Has Ellis been better than expected?

Rebecca, MMB: The collective groan of Mavs Twitter when the Monta Ellis signing was announced was something to see. There were a few reports that once the Mavs lost out on Dwight, that Dirk was actually pushing for them to sign Ellis, and we've definitely seen why. "Monta Basketball" has quite simply been a lot of fun to watch. He's a very willing passer and he and Dirk in the pick and roll are deadly. He can also help out at point which has been useful as the backup point options at the moment are both rookies. Dallas's system maximizes his talent, and he has a coach in Rick Carlisle who knows how to get the most out of his players. He's been much better than the fans have expected, but seems like the front office knew what they were getting all along.

How important is Brandon Wright to the lineup? He's just come back from injury and been crazy-good in only 16 mins a game (11 pts, 4 rebs).

Rebecca, MMB: If the Mavs make the playoffs, Brandan Wright will be a very big reason why. Mavs fans were all excited to see Wright re-sign with Dallas and all VERY disappointed with that early injury. And the numbers he's put up in small sample size theater since his return are no fluke - he's picking up right where he left off last year with his off the charts efficiency. I talked earlier about how well Monta and Dirk play together, and Wright only makes that combination even more deadly, opening up a lot more options in an already very good offense. Wright also has a penchant for highlight reel dunks, which makes him also just straight up fun.

Carlisle is going strictly with veterans (five players 32+), while giving very little time to the youngest players, as the Mavs go for a playoff run. Ledo, Larkin, Mekel and Crowder are watching rather than playing. How do Mavs fans feel about that?

Rebecca, MMB: Actually, Larkin, Mekel and Crowder have gotten quite a bit of run in the early going, which has been both a blessing and a curse. It's nice to see, but it's unfortunate that the Mavs have had to rely on them. So, it's also nice to have the vets around to keep things steady.

With early injuries at point, Mekel was the primary backup to Calderon to start the season. He's been competent enough, and is now splitting time at backup point with Larkin. Larkin has been exciting to watch for a rookie with no offseason preparation since he has returned from injury. He hasn't set the scoreboard on fire, but he's very fast and does some things well already, and isn't expected or asked to do much just yet. Frankly though, I don't think Mavs fans have been this excited about a draft pick in...well, it's been a long time.

Crowder is fifth on the team in minutes played this season, and is something of a controversial topic of conversation (even among our editorial staff -- we have two editors with completely opposing viewpoints on him). He does a lot of little things like always being in the right place and playing aggressively very well, which are things Carlisle likes. But despite a hot shooting start, he's reverted to last season's frustrating tendency to not be able to shoot, at all. So it's a mixed bag.

Ricky Ledo was recently assigned to the D-League, where from what I hear he has been getting a lot of praise. He has a ton of learning to do to be NBA ready, but as a late second round pick, not much (if anything) was expected of him this season. He's still a mystery, but a very intriguing one.

What's your prediction for the season for the Mavs? Can they sustain this success?

Rebecca, MMB: Realistically, with the way the Western Conference is shaking out, the Mavs are fighting along with six or seven other teams for those last two playoff spots. They have no defense so they rely on pure scoring to beat their opponents, and that is going to have to continue for them to get one of those spots. They do need to get the defense up to a consistent, passable level at some point. Some nights it's there, most nights it is really awful. I wouldn't be shocked if we saw a trade to help with that.

But barring some catastrophic injury, I think this team does make the playoffs. Call me optimistic, but I actually think they could even get out of the first round, though that would heavily depend on the matchup.

Bonus: What's the prediction on Saturday night?

Rebecca, MMB: Mavs win an uncomfortably close game that probably goes into overtime since I'm responsible for the recap and my sports teams love to torture me that way.

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