DAN BICKLEY

Suns fall in rabbit hole in Game 3 loss to desperate Mavericks

May 6, 2022, 10:38 PM | Updated: 11:08 pm

DALLAS — There is a rabbit hole on Planet Orange. The deeper you get, the more you learn NBA officials are to blame for most everything.

The Suns had a bigger problem Friday night in Dallas, where they ran into the “Big D.”

Desperation.

“Bottom line is you have to give them credit,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said.

The Mavericks won Game 3 because they played like an angry team that was thoroughly embarrassed in Game 2. Their role players showed up. Jalen Brunson was an impact performer, leading all scorers with 28 points. And they continue to play well in extended minutes without Luka Doncic, who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the second half.

All of that was to be expected.

What made this game so frustrating was the Suns made uncharacteristic mistakes. On his 37th birthday, Chris Paul had six turnovers in the first 16 minutes. Mikal Bridges was slapped with a technical foul. The Suns missed a ton of easy shots around the basket. They turned the ball over 17 times. They allowed the Mavericks 14 more field goal attempts.

That is a recipe for disaster, and that is what the Suns earned on Friday.

“When you see us at 94 points and 23 assists, that’s just not a typical game for us,” Williams said.

As the frustration mounted, the Suns also got lost in that rabbit hole, letting garden-variety erratic officiating get under their skin. There was a play when Dorian Finney-Smith drained a wide-open trey as Paul and Devin Booker were arguing with an official following a questionable out-of-bounds call.

No matter what the circumstance, that simply can’t happen. Not in a playoff game.

“We never really adjusted to the calls either,” Paul said. “That’s not why we lost. But we never really adjusted to it.”

Paul took a hefty heaping of blame following the game. His turnovers were shocking and came in bunches. He vowed they will be better on Sunday. Certainly, the whole group needs to be stoic and stronger between the ears, playing through and past all the perceived injustices.

“I thought we could’ve settled down a little more,” Williams said.

There is no reason to fret. The Suns earned the right to lose Friday’s game. And everything about their performance seemed out of sync. Bridges led the team in field goal attempts (14). Jae Crowder led the team in scoring (19 points). Paul had seven turnovers and just four assists. Booker added five turnovers, and that’s a staggering combined total from a pair of All-Stars.

Bottom line: Nothing came easy, and nothing felt right. Except for the outcome.

“If I don’t turn the ball over like that, I feel like it’s a different game,” Paul said.

Maybe, maybe not. Remember, it’s impossible to manufacture desperation, which is the great equalizer in professional sports, which the Mavericks had in abundance on Friday. As a result, they’ve made a stand. A one-night stand. But there was nothing about their performance that changes the calculus:

The Suns are the better team that spent most of Friday night agitated and out of rhythm. They made it easy for Dallas to stage their own house party. After the game, Booker proclaimed that “people want to see more basketball games.” He also said prematurely that, “We got a series.” You can read between the lines all you want, but if we’ve learned anything about these Suns, it’s that they are extremely sore losers. And after scoring 94 points in a lopsided loss, they are the team feeling the sting of embarrassment.

Chances are, the Mavericks will see a much different opponent on Sunday. And if history is our guide, someone will pay a price.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Penguin Air
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 02: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts on the bench during the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 121-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, center, grabs a rebound over Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, right, during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) passes the ball around Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) scores over Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25), guard Luka Doncic (77) and guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) argues about a play during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes the ball past Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates a score against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives around Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd watches from the sidelines during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams passes the ball back to play during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, front, works the ball against Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee, center, drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans (44) and guard Frank Ntilikina (21) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) drives around Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans (44) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Frank Ntilikina, left, and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reach for a loose ball during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) shoots over Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans, right, during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shoots past Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) and forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) passes the ball in front of Dallas Mavericks guard Frank Ntilikina (21) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) bring the ball up court against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee (00) shoots past Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans (44) and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) reacts to a play during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) argues a call during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, argues a call with referee Rodney Mott (71) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives to the basket past Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, right, during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a score against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to shoot against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) walks off the court after he was called for a foul during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates a score against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee, right, during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) and guard Chris Paul (3) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Jae Crowder #99 of the Phoenix Suns reacts toward the Mavericks bench after scoring with a three point shot during the second half of Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals at American Airlines Center on May 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, right, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns center JaVale McGee, left, during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) argues after he was called for a foul during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a play during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left, talks with guard Devin Booker (1) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a play during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) drives around Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) passes the ball over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, left, during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) reacts to a play during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) argues a call with referee Rodney Mott (71) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives around Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, left, and Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) battle for a loose ball during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, center, shoots over Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) and guard Devin Booker (1) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) greets a Dallas Mavericks fans as he walks off the court after the team's loss in Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Phoenix Suns players walk off the court after their loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) battles Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) and guard Chris Paul (3) for a loose ball during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban celebrates the team's win over the Phoenix Suns during in Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) DALLAS, TX - MAY 6: Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket to score against Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game Three of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals at American Airlines Center on May 6, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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