PHOENIX – The Dallas Mavericks did something Thursday night they hadn’t done all season.
They won a game without Luka Doncic.
Well, officially Doncic did start and play in the game against the Phoenix Suns. But he sprained his left ankle and departed for good just 3:21 into the game after going scoreless on two shot attempts.
But Doncic’s teammates took over from there and carved out a gutsy 99-95 victory over the Suns at the Footprint Center. It was an improbable win for the Mavs – they’re 1-5 this season without Doncic — that got this two-game road trip off to a rousing start.
“Everybody who played (Thursday) – even the guys who didn’t play – were into the game,” coach Jason Kidd said. “I think it’s just the character of those guys in that locker room just understanding injuries are a part of this game. We never want anybody to get hurt.
“And then without Luka, just thinking who’s going to step up. Well, we got that answer (Thursday) – it was Spencer (Dinwiddie). But it was the whole group participating.”
It was a collective effort with the Mavs holding the Suns to just 16 points in the second quarter and only 40.7 percent shooting for the game. It was players diving on the floor repeatedly for loose balls.
It was Josh Green going coast-to-coast for a nifty layup when the Suns’ defenders dared him to do so. It was Dwight Powell diving on the floor for what turned out to be the game-saving offensive rebound that led to his two game-sealing free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining which put this game on frozen ice.
“It’s just the character,” Kidd said. “I keep saying this over and over, that group in that locker room believed that they could win (Thursday).”
Here are the three takeaways from the four-point victory over the Suns.
DINWIDDIE SEASON’S BEST: With Doncic in the locker room nursing a sprained left ankle, Dinwiddie took command of the offense and directed it in a mighty flawless way. Dinwiddie scored a season-high 36 points, collected six rebounds and distributed nine assists with only one turnover. He was 10-of-18 from the field – including 5-of-6 from beyond the three-point arc – and 11-of-14 from the free-throw line. It marked the first time Dinwiddie has posted a 35-point, six-assist, nine-rebound game in his career.
FINNEY-SMITH DOUBED UP: For the first time in his seven-year career, Dorian Finney-Smith was able to piece together a game where he finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. It was a remarkable occasion for the 6-7 Finney-Smith considering he spent a lot of time Thursday playing center and battling Suns 7-foot center Deandre Ayton on the glass. Finney-Smith was 7-of-16 from the field in 35 minutes, and his plus/minus of plus 16 was the highest of any of the 23 players in Thursday’s game.
DEFENSE RULED THE DAY: Three games after holding the Miami Heat to just 90 points – this season’s low for a Mavs’ opponent — the Mavs rolled up their sleeves again and held the Suns to 95 points. It proves that the Mavs can indeed do what they did for large portions of last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals. And that is, do their jobs successfully on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Jason Kidd said: “Defensively, to hold a team like Phoenix under 100 points is a big deal and those guys in that locker room should be proud.”
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