While Suns vs. Spurs used to be the most intense rivalry
in the Western Conference, it was Suns vs. Mavericks which
took the crown as the most entertaining.
From the second Steve Nash signed with the Suns in the
summer of 2004 what was once games between a pair of
friendly teams (they seemingly made a trade with each
other every few years) became a bona-fide rivalry. I guess
that’s what happens when one team’s outspoken owner let’s
a league MVP leave as a free agent because he was afraid
of the point guard’s durability.
So, it became Steve Nash vs. Mark Cuban, Shawn Marion vs.
Dirk Nowitzki, Mike D’Antoni vs. Avery Johnson and Amare
Stoudemire vs., well, they really had no answer for STAT.
In 2004-05 the Suns won 62 games, Dallas won 58, and
Phoenix won a second-round series in six hotly contested
games. Nash, of course, was a monster in the clincher – 39
points, 12 assists and nine rebounds would attest to that
– as Phoenix advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
The following season Phoenix won 54 games, Dallas 60, and
the teams again met in the playoffs, only this time in the
Western Conference Finals. Phoenix stole the first game in
Dallas but ultimately did not have the horses to keep up
with a loaded Mavericks roster, as Stoudemire was out,
Kurt Thomas was useless after returning from injury and
Raja Bell tried to fight through an injury of his own.
Dallas won the series in six games, advanced to the NBA
Finals, and pulled off one of the biggest choke jobs in
From there the teams regularly traded spots at the top of
the conference, with Dallas winning 67 games the next
season and Phoenix 61, only Dallas was knocked off by the
8th-seeded Warriors while the Suns had the suspension-gate
series loss against the Spurs in the second round. The
teams each took a step back the next year, and at this
point the games just don’t mean what they used to.
Sure, the Mavericks come into Sunday’s tilt with 50 wins
and legitimate title aspirations. The Suns, however, have
not held up their end of the bargain, as they are just one
game above .500, aspiring just to make the postseason.
So, while the Suns and Mavericks renew their rivalry with
a late-season matchup, the implications are certainly not
what they used to be. In fact, there really aren’t any
implications at all. And that’s a shame.