PHOENIX — “They’re a team that’s a lot similar to us.”
Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek uttered those nine words in his pre-game press conference, and he couldn’t have been more right.
Heading into their Western Conference contest, the Suns and Dallas Mavericks had very similar records — 15-10 and 15-11 respectively — and were coming off grueling games the night before.
But it was what the first-year head coach followed with that proved most telling following the 48 minutes of basketball played on the US Airways Center court Saturday night.
“I think the only difference is we are a little bit younger,” said Hornacek. “They have the experience, however after back-to-back nights for both us, we’re hoping the youth takes over.”
Did it ever.
Outside of a brief 2-0 deficit, the Suns went wire-to-wire with their most complete offensive performance of the season.
Led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points and six assists, Channing Frye’s 18 points and eight rebounds and P.J. Tucker’s 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Phoenix romped Dallas in an offensive slugfest by a final of 123-108.
The Suns set a new season-high for points (123) and tied a season-high for 3-point makes (15).
“Offensively, we were pretty good,” Hornacek said after the 15-point victory. “They do some things. They are a veteran team that can switch. They would switch and then a guy would run from the weak side. We finally caught on to it well in the second half, got it over quickly, got it inside and made some kick-out passes for threes. Offensively that was probably our best game.”
Heading into this weekend’s slate of games against the Mavericks and Nuggets, Gerald Green had been somewhat maligned for his recent performance from the field.
Over the first seven games of the month, Green scored no more than 10 points in a contest and shot a combined 15-of-51. However, it seems the Suns swingman has busted out of his shooting slump. Green followed up his heroics from Friday night’s comeback win in Denver (6-of-12 from 3-point range) with an equally impressive night Saturday.
Green scored 22 points on 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. The first-year Sun reached double figures only 12 times last season as a member of the Indiana Pacers. He’s already scored 10 points or more in 19 of his 26 games played this season.
“I really have to give all the credit to my teammates,” Green said. “They are the ones that are creating the shots for me. It is just easy for me to knock it down.
“They are drawing so much attention, defenses are collapsing to them. It is easy for me to be wide open and hit the three.”
Despite trailing by double digits on multiple occasions, the Mavericks stayed competitive largely because they were able to score easy, uncontested buckets in the paint.
A night after surrendering 52 paint points the Nuggets, the Suns allowed 60 to the Mavericks — a number that is quite alarming when considering that Rick Carlisle’s squad doesn’t really have a true threat on the interior outside of a penetrating Jose Calderon or Monte Ellis. In fact, the Mavericks averaged 41.3 paint points per game coming into play Saturday.
To make matters worse, Phoenix finished the night with just one shot block.
“Whether we win or lose, we’re trying to get better and shore up some things,” said Hornacek. “Defensively, we are kind of up and down on that. Some times when you have a lead you’re a little tentative about giving up the three.
“We gave up a lot of twos, but they’re also a very good 3-point shooting team. They only got three of them. Sometimes it’s a trade off. You give up some of those easy ones that are only two instead of giving up threes that let them get going.”
STAT OF THE GAME
The Suns scored a season-high 38 points in the opening quarter behind 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. By doing so, Phoenix extended its franchise-record streak of games with at least seven 3-point makes to 18 games.
HE SAID IT
“We knew they were playing a back-to-back tonight like we were, and they even played overtime in Dallas [Friday night]. We know that we had to play fast because we are a younger team and they have some veterans on that team. We just had to push the ball and we did that.” – Suns guard Goran Dragic
– With a win over the Mavericks, the Suns moved to 8-5 this season against teams with a .500 record or better.
– Phoenix has won 12 in a row at US Airways Center when scoring 110 points or more. It also outscored Dallas 45-9 from beyond the 3-point arc.
– P.J. Tucker made seven combined baskets in his last four games combined. In Saturday’s win over Dallas, the Suns forward went 6-of-14 from the field for 16 points.
– The Suns rebounded from Friday’s 21-of-31 (67.7 percent) performance from the charity stripe in the Mile High City with a 20-of-22 (90.9) performance against the Mavericks.
The Suns close out their two-game holiday home stand with a Pacific Division clash against the Los Angeles Lakers (13-13) Monday night. The two teams met back at the Staples Center earlier this month in a contest Phoenix took by a final 114-106. Unlike that night, the Lakers will be without 15-time All-Star Kobe Bryant, who is currently sidelined with a fracture of his lateral tibial plateau.
Los Angeles might also be without the services of power forward Pau Gasol, who missed Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors due to an upper respiratory illness. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.