Do Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving offset Suns’ trouble with Mavericks?

Mar 4, 2023, 7:26 AM

Kyrie Irving #11 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets walk on the bench during the second half ...

Kyrie Irving #11 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets walk on the bench during the second half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on November 23, 2022 in Toronto, Canada (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Sometimes, a team has another’s number, and it’s not just because one is much better than the other.

We were certainly heading toward that destination with the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks. Some Suns fans would argue we have already arrived.

The Mavericks smoked the Suns in the last two games of the Western Conference semifinals, which included an embarrassing Game 7 loss in Phoenix for the Suns.

The season opener was quickly dubbed “Game 8” after they were down 19 midway through the second quarter. The similarities, especially with the vibe in the building, were eerie. Then a miraculous comeback and shot by Phoenix’s Damion Lee potentially served as getting over the hump.

Nope. The first game back in Dallas on Dec. 5, “Game 9,” was an absolute rout that featured a 26-point halftime lead for the Mavericks.

Back in Phoenix on Jan. 26, Luka Doncic got hurt three minutes in and didn’t return. While the Suns were without Devin Booker, they still had four of their five starters. But then Spencer Dinwiddie just took over, hitting pull-up jumper after jumper, and the energy of Phoenix’s players was again like someone else was taking control of their bodies. For the third straight game at Footprint Center, the crowd gave off a, “Is this really happening?” energy to the proceedings. It did. “Game 10.”

Ten games is enough to at least declare Dallas a terrible matchup. How is that the case stylistically for the Mavericks’ dribble-dribble-dribble, spread-the-floor offense that’s hard to watch even with the brilliance of Doncic versus the Suns’ constant fluidity and motion? I don’t know, man. Basketball is weird sometimes.

All of this is part of what made the blockbuster trades that both parties completed at the trade deadline that much more interesting.

Some of the core team spirit inside Dallas (Dorian Finney-Smith) and Phoenix (Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson) was offloaded in packages to land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, respectively. The Mavericks also got rid of Dinwiddie, as did the Suns with Jae Crowder.

What’s left may be just as important as what arrived and should be noted first.

But the star power of Durant and Irving on its own is enough to engulf what Booker and Doncic bring to the table. And that’s before you get into the narrative juice that had talking-head show producers so giddy with excitement they probably couldn’t sleep before the Friday slate of shows ahead of Sunday’s 11 a.m. meeting between the two teams in an ABC showcase game.

Durant and Irving as basketball players will hardly change how either team plays. To quickly go back to the styles, Irving’s isolation expertise will slot into what Dinwiddie did on steroids while we’ve covered at length how Durant is a cozy fit with Phoenix.

The two friends who solidified they wanted to play together somewhere during the 2019 All-Star break before going to Brooklyn together later that summer never had it work out with the Nets. They got 13 playoff games together and won one playoff series.

Durant, at his introductory press conference in front of a few thousand Suns fans, got emotional for a second about how things didn’t come together.

Now they are both at their fresh start, unknowingly serving as unpredictable variables to a bubbling, odd juju that has developed in the last year between their new homes.

Does who they are as global superstars change the basketball chemistry of how the two squads clash now? It has to in some way, right?

I don’t know, man. Basketball is weird sometimes. Let’s see on Sunday.

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