For whatever reasons, this turned into easily the worst night at the office for the Dallas Mavericks this season.
The Phoenix Suns outscored the Mavs by a whopping 48-22 margin in the third quarter Tuesday and went on to grab a 133-104 victory before an American Airlines Center sellout crowd of 20,216.
The loss dropped the Mavs to 29-18 and into sixth place in the Western Conference — half-a-game behind the Houston Rockets. The Mavs will play in Houston (29-17) on Friday, and they know they have to play much better against the Rockets than they did against the Suns.
“Defensively, we didn’t have the disposition we needed, obviously, and offensively we struggled,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “All-in-all a very disappointing ugly night.
“Phoenix had a lot to do with it. They played with a lot of force and a lot of conviction and they made plays.”
All night, the Mavs looked like they were in a funk that they simply couldn’t snap out of. The Suns (20-27) led from wire-to-wire and handcuffed the Mavs at every opportunity.
The 133 points the Suns scored are the most the Mavs have allowed in a game this season. The 29-point deficit also is the worst loss of the season for the Mavs.
“These nights do happen in the NBA,” Carlisle said. “I just don’t think you write off something like this quite that easily.
“This team has done so many things to get people excited about it and really worked hard to get into a solid position at this point in time. A performance like this is just tough. But nights like this do happen, but this was extreme.”
Phoenix had a slim 60-55 lead at halftime. But it all went wrong for the Mavs in the third quarter, as the 48 points the Suns scored during that 12-minute sequence are the most Dallas has allowed in any quarter in franchise history.
The Suns converted 18 of their 26 field goals in the third quarter, including five of their eight shots from 3-point range and all seven of their free throw attempts.
“We just played a bad game, really bad game,” said Luka Doncic, who led the Mavs with 21 points and six rebounds. “That wasn’t us today, so we got to forget about this game and move on.
“Everything (went wrong). It wasn’t us.”
Devin Booker was the catalyst for the Suns with 20 of his 32 points in the third quarter.
“He’s an all-star caliber player — no question about that,” Carlisle said of Booker. “He’s a player this year that has improved his game in all areas. He’s a great player.”
Also for the Suns, Deandre Ayton added a season-high 31 points and nine rebounds, Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 19 points and Mikal Bridges had 13 points.
Phoenix led 108-77 after the third quarter and by as much as 39 points early in the fourth quarter.
“We just didn’t look good as a team,” Carlisle said. “We just didn’t have much juice.”
The Suns jumped out to a 20-9 lead as the Mavs missed 11 of their first 14 shots, including several of them when they were wide open. Phoenix built its lead to 32-19 after the first quarter before the Mavs crawled to within five points at intermission. But the third quarter belonged to the Suns.
Overall, the loss brought up the repeated discussion of the Mavs’ troubles at home, where they’re just 13-12 as opposed to being an impressive 16-6 on the road.
“Still so much of the season left we cannot give into that,” Carlisle said of the home/road discrepancies. “It’s one of the things we’ve got to make a stand on. We didn’t focus very well on it tonight.”
The Suns shot a season-high 59.3 percent from the field, while the Mavs converted 44.6 percent of their field goals and missed 26 of their 33 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
Suns coach Monty Williams said his team – as are others – is still having difficulties processing the loss of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday along with his daughter and seven others.
“We took a day off to think and process,” Williams said. “And then this morning we came in and the shootaround was still heavy.
“We talked about the process of grieving and trying to figure out what’s going on, the life issues and all that. You just saw a group hang in there with one another.”
The Mavs observed a moment of silence for Bryant before the game, then took an eight-second backcourt violation after winning the opening tip, and the Suns followed with a 24-second shot clock violation. Those represent the two jersey numbers Bryant wore with the Lakers.
After that, it was all Phoenix.
“We played terrible,” Doncic said. “We got to learn from this and move on, but we’re in a playoff position.
“Nobody thought we were going to be in a playoff position. Obviously, we can do better. We got so much more to learn. And we’re going to learn.”