'Bubble Trouble': Doncic Shines, But Playoff-Bound Mavs Fall to Suns, 117-115

Dalton Trigg

Following a disheartening defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets on Friday night, the Dallas Mavericks hoped to bounce back in a big way on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. After all, that's the kind of performance most of us expected, being that the Mavs were 21-6 following a loss before the game against Phoenix tipped off. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't meant to be, as the Mavs yet again lost another 'clutch game,' 117-115, losing their second consecutive game and falling to 0-2 in 'bubble play.'

Just like in the game against the Rockets, the Mavs jumped out to a hot start against the Suns, taking a 73-60 lead into halftime. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, though, the Mavs found themselves trailing 96-92. Dallas had two chances at the end to tie or take the lead, but Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. were unable to convert their three-point attempts.

Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavs in this one, putting up 40 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds while shooting 11-of-20 from the field and an impressive 18-of-19 from the free-throw line. Porzingis also chipped in with a big performance, scoring 30 points on 50-percent shooting to go with eight rebounds and four blocks. Seth Curry was the only other Mavs player to score in double-digits with 16 points.

"It's another tough loss for us," said Porzingis. "But I believe that this is part of the process, and we're going to get through this and get better. We won't let these things happen again."

As well as Dallas' young superstars played in this one, they were let down, for the most part, by their supporting cast. The Mavs shot 6-of-31 from deep overall, and all of those makes came from the three players already mentioned in Doncic, Porzingis, and Curry.

With three seconds remaining in the game, and the Mavs down two points, Rick Carlisle drew up a play for a potential Tim Hardaway Jr. game-winning three. The only issue with this, however, was that Hardaway Jr. had been 0-of-7 from deep on the night before that final play. These kinds of losses fall on the shoulders of the entire team, but this last-second decision by Carlisle was definitely a head-scratcher.

The Mavs' inability to perform well in clutch situations bit them again for the second consecutive game, but it's not like the team is unaware of this issue. They talk about it, and they're trying to change for the better. It's just not happening right now for whatever reasons. The Mavs are now 2-10 in games where the final score is decided by three points or less.

"We've got to learn from these mistakes. It's little details," said Doncic afterwards. "We've got to start the third quarter stronger and be physical. We have to learn from this."

The Mavs, who clinched a playoff spot on Sunday despite the loss (due to a Memphis Grizzlies loss) will have their next 'learning session' against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, as they'll make their third attempt to get in the 'bubble' win column."