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.

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