5 takeaways from Suns' comeback over Mavs to complete 5-0 road trip

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DALLAS — On a night they clanked 16 straight 3s in the first half, the Phoenix Suns closed out Dallas with Chris Paul hitting a dagger one Thursday night to stamp an unbeaten five-game road trip.

The Suns (35-9) overcame shooting 8-of-36 from 3 to stun the Mavericks, 109-101, at American Airlines Center as Paul nailed a 3 over Jalen Brunson with 26.1 second left to put his team up eight.

Phoenix closed the game on a 22-6 run after trailing, 95-87, after Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 3 with 7:01 left.

The victory before a sellout crowd of 19,584 also gives Phoenix nine straight over the Mavs to extend its longest active win streak against a single opponent.

Devin Booker finished with 28 points while Paul scored 20 with 10 coming in the fourth to go along with 11 assists to extend his NBA record to 49 games with 10-plus assists and zero turnovers.

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Luka Doncic led the Mavericks (26-20) with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to eight turnovers with one coming on the first play of the game.

The Suns overcame a poor shooting night from 3 by scoring 31 points off 19 Dallas turnovers and getting a spark from veteran big Bismack Biyombo off the bench.

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's win as Phoenix returns home to face Indiana on Saturday. The Suns beat the Pacers during this five-game road trip.

1. This could be a preview of a possible second round playoff series.

The Suns are first in the West while the Mavs are fifth.

If they remain in those slots entering the postseason and advance, Phoenix and Dallas would meet in the conference semifinals.

The Suns won the season series, 3-0, as they took the first two in Phoenix. The Mavs didn't have Doncic for those two, but Phoenix has had their number with or without him.

The Mavs are an improved defensive team under new coach Jason Kidd. That helps, but they turned the ball over 19 times with Doncic committing nearly half of them Thursday night.

That basically erases a defensive stop when you give the ball right back. Some were forced by Phoenix. Some weren't.

Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to score as Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to score as Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) defends during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Doncic is a great player, but he is averaging career-worst 4.6 points a game. He committed one more turnover Thursday than Phoenix did as a team with seven.

That can't happen if Dallas wants to beat the Suns.

The Mavs won the rebounding battle, 50-40, grabbed 10 offensive boards, but Phoenix was without Deandre Ayton for a second straight game with a right ankle sprain.

Averaging 10.6 rebounds a game, Ayton probably nullifies that.

What the Mavs don't have, or at least they didn't show it Thursday night, are guys who can hit shots when they really matter.

Doncic was creating for others down the stretch, but his teammates shot 2-of-8 from 3 in the fourth. For the game, Mavs went 11-of-37 from deep.

You can't do that against Phoenix, even at home.

The Suns have two guys who can hit clutch shots in Paul and Booker.

If the Mavs don't find another guy other than Doncic to come through in the clutch, they'd fall to the Suns in the playoffs, too.

2. Phoenix had a five-point lead at the time.

So that factored in Williams challenging the foul on Booker blocking Dorian Finney-Smith at the rim with 48.3 seconds left.

Plus everyone on the floor, led by Booker, were waving the finger to challenge the foul call. The challenged proved to be a successful.

Offensive foul on Finney-Smith.

The point in all this is Booker, who was considered a defensive liability early in his career, and still will give up an occasional blow by as Brunson drove past him for two, can also come up with big-time defensive plays.

That's one of the major steps he's taken in his game.

With Phoenix winning the challenge, that led to the Paul 3 game-sealing 3. Say Phoenix lost the challenge.

Finney-Smith still has to go to the line. He's a 66% free throw shooter.

So there's no guarantees he'd make the free throws, but Booker denied what would have been sure two.

Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, battles Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) for space during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, battles Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) for space during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

3. Jae Crowder is such a streaky shooter, but confidence is not a problem.

So on a night no one seems to be able to hit a 3, Crowder went 3-of-6 from deep in scoring 13 points. His second-half 3s kept the Suns in contact with the Mavs.

This is why Phoenix is so tough to handle.

Booker looked like he was going to have to carry the offense again like he did on his 48-point night Monday at San Antonio, but his legs weren't there for the majority of the game.

At some point, someone else had to get it going offensively.

Crowder led that charge along with Cameron Payne and Bridges, who each scored 12, but all three were sound on the defensive end with deflections, particularly Bridges.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

4. In the final 12 minutes of a five-game road trip, Phoenix outscored Dallas 35-19, in the fourth quarter.

Insane.

Now this was the second of a back-to-back for the Mavs as they beat Toronto on Wednesday night, but the Suns have been on the road since Jan. 10.

Truth be told, Dallas should've won this one.

The Mavs led by eight with 7:01 remaining in the game.

Doncic missed time in the second half with a stiff neck, but he did return and finished the game. What Phoenix has established is it is comfortable having multiple guys guard him.

Paul, Booker, Bridges, Payne, Cam Johnson and Landry all defended Doncic.

Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to score as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) defends during the first half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to score as Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) defends during the first half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

So they're willing to switch and take on the challenge. Sure he's going to score. He'll muscle in some shots. Hit stepback 3s, but the Suns talk about wearing a team down.

As great as Doncic is, he passed on shots at the rim late. Was that due to fatigue, the stiff neck or trusting his teammates? Probably all three.

See, Dallas is an improved defensive team, but Phoenix is a great defensive team.

So the Suns are able to find the energy to guard and have enough offensive options to score on the other end.

5. Having Biyombo close out game is an indication of a couple of things.

One, he's more physical than McGee and Jalen Smith, but just as active.

Two, he's a better defender in terms of positioning and understanding defensive concepts. Not the leaper McGee is, but Biyombo can challenge shots.

Biyombo and Paul have also found synergy on pick-and-roll to the point Williams calls a play out of the timeout that involves those two.

Paul found Biyombo, who somehow makes the catch, finishes to put Phoenix up one with 3:38 left and was fouled.

The Suns never trailed again as Biyombo hit the ensuing free throw.

Paul said he's talked with Heat guard Kyle Lowry about Biyombo, who played with Lowry in Toronto.

That's NBA networking right there.

Biyombo ended the night with nine points, four rebounds and two steals with the latter one coming against Maxi Kleber with Phoenix down, 95-90, midway though the fourth.

Just took the ball from him on the Mavericks' side of halfcourt that led to a Bridges bucket to pull within three. That was a huge momentum shift.

This is a good problem for Williams to have with McGee and Biyombo backing up Ayton as well as having Smith, but when Ayton returns, he's got decisions to make.

McGee has been with the team longer, but Biyombo has played better in the last two games off the bench.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 5 takeaways from Suns' comeback over Mavs to complete 5-0 road trip

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