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Suns Strokes: Phoenix’s defense goes south in loss to Mavericks

Phoenix Suns' P.J. Tucker is fouled by Dallas Mavericks' Wesley Matthews (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

For an opening night performance, the Phoenix Suns looked to still be going through dress rehearsals.

Playing in front of a sold out Talking Stick Resort Arena and wearing their alternate black uniforms, the Suns dropped the first game of 2015-16 to the Dallas Mavericks, 111-95.

Eight Mavericks, including four starters, scored in double figures. Leading the way was Raymond Felton’s 18 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter when Dallas took its largest lead (28) of the game.

The Suns, plagued by early foul trouble, struggled to get into any sort of an offensive rhythm.

They had the game tied at 41 with 4:04 to play in the second quarter, and that’s when the curtain came down, so to speak.

The Mavericks answered with a 42-15 run to go ahead by 83-56 at the 4:59 mark of the third quarter.

Brandon Knight led the Suns with 15 points, Jon Leuer and Devin Booker each added 14 off the bench, and Eric Bledose chipped in 12 despite missing 8 of 12 attempts.

The Suns shot 39 percent from the field, including just 25 percent (6-of-24) on 3s, and turned the ball over 18 times in losing for the first time in their season-opening game under head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks, 3-0 when opening their season against the Suns, shot 47 percent, aided by their advantage in both points in the paint (48-36) and fastbreak points (25-17).


– Knight accounted for 11 first-quarter points. He scored seven, including a 3, and added a pair of assists, feeding Alex Len on the fastbreak for a dunk and setting up Leuer for a 15-foot jumper. During one stretch, Knight scored on back-to-back possessions; his five points helped the Suns overcome an early four-point deficit.

– Off the bench, Leuer closed out the first quarter with a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer and then added two quick field goals to begin the second, the latter of which saw him drive past Dirk Nowitzki for an and-1 reverse lay-up. Leuer missed the free throw, but his six unanswered points gave the Suns a 26-24 lead at 10:52.

– With the Suns down five midway through the second quarter, Archie Goodwin scored seven straight points, including a 3, which tied the game at 41 with 4:04 to play in the half. The 3-pointer ended a run of seven straight Suns’ misses from beyond the arc. The Suns made only three of their 16 first-half 3-point attempts.

– Two days shy of his 19th birthday, Booker made his NBA debut, checking in for Knight at 4:54 of the second quarter. Booker made his first field goal, a 15-foot jump shot, and first 3-pointer within two-and-a-half minutes of one another late in the the third quarter. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes.

– Riding a lineup consisting of four former Kentucky guards (Bledsoe, Knight, Goodwin and Booker) and an ex-Wisconsin Badger, Leuer, the Suns went on a 9-2 fourth-quarter run. Bledsoe scored five points with Knight and Booker each adding a field goal. Leuer had an assist and blocked shot as the Suns closed to within 92-78 at 8:06.


– Each Suns starter committed a foul in the game’s first seven minutes with P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Tyson Chandler whistled for two apiece. Alex Len picked up two fouls in his five first-quarter minutes. As a result, the Mavericks were in the bonus at the 6:38 mark and shot 8-of-12 from the foul line thanks to 12 Suns personal fouls.

– Charlie Villanueva scored five of his team-best 10 second-quarter points during a 13-4 Mavericks run which closed out the first half and handed Dallas a 54-45 lead at the break. Villanueva made two 3s and shot 4-of-5 overall in eight minutes. The Mavericks were 5-of-9 (Deron Williams went 2-of-2) from beyond the arc in the first half.

– After losing the second quarter 30-23, the Suns were simply embarrassed in the third when the Mavs outscored them 34-21. First, Nowitzki dropped nine points during a 12-4 run to open the quarter; then Felton scored four points in a 17-4 run moments later. The Suns ended the quarter with one more field goal (seven) than turnovers (six).

– Whatever momentum the Suns enjoyed after pulling to within 14 points in the fourth quarter evaporated in mere seconds — literally. The Mavericks scored the next seven points in 72 seconds. The 7-0 run was punctuated by a Felton 3-pointer, his first of two in the quarter, that pushed the Dallas lead to 21 points, 99-78, at 6:54.


64-43: The Suns were outscored by a combined 21 points between the second and third quarters


“You got to flush it down the toilet,” Hornacek said. “I think we were chalking the early part of the game up to a little nerves, a little being jacked up because it was the first game. It seemed like everybody’s shot was a little long. I don’t know if you see it that often that every shot is long and that’s just a fact that they were probably pumped up for the game. So you chalk it up as a bad game by everybody and you bounce back two days later and play again.”


– Hornacek went 13-deep in the first half, with each player seeing at least three-minutes of court time.

– At 3:42 of the third quarter, Bledsoe was hit with a technical foul, something he received on 10 different occasions last season, second-most on the team.

– Booker joined Maciej Lampe as the only Suns players to appear in a game while 18 years old in franchise history

– For the fifth straight season, the Suns opened the season at home, their most consecutive seasons opening at home since doing so in each of the franchise’s first seven seasons at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

– With a 14-man roster but only 13 players allowed in uniform on game night, the Suns listed second-year forward Cory Jefferson inactive.

– Both teams and the crowd observed a moment of silence prior to tip-off for Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders, who died Sunday of cancer at age 60.


Game two of the young season will once again be a home affair.

The Suns host Portland on Friday, Oct. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

A reminder: Steve Nash will be inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor at halftime, a ceremony that will be carried live on the broadcast.

The Suns lost three of the four meetings with the Blazers last season.

In the most recent matchup, the Suns led early but Portland dominated the the third quarter to pull away for a 109-86 win at Moda Center on March 30. T.J. Warren and Gerald Green each came off the bench to tie for the Suns’ team-lead in points.

Damian Lillard finished with a game-high 19 points, including 10 in a 37-16 Blazers third quarter.

The Suns are 17-3 at home against Portland since the start of the 2004-05 season.

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