After an offseason like no other, the Dallas Mavericks finally returned to regular-season action Wednesday night, facing off against the Phoenix Suns in what promises to be an exciting season-opener.
And speaking of "promises''? These two Western Conference teams are entering the 2020-2021 season with high expectations and exciting additions.
LETS LIVE-BLOG OUR WAY THROUGH THE NIGHT ...
FINAL: The Mavs cut the lead to one in the very late going, but a bugaboo from last year popped up again: Dallas couldn't close.
Interestingly, in the lead-up to Game 1, coach Rick Carlisle talked about this exact issue.
"Closing games,'' he said, "is one of the hardest things to do. It’s one of the great challenges. We’ve got to love the challenge.”
Dallas probably does love the challenge - but wasn't up to it here.
Luka Doncic experienced his struggles from the floor but still ended up with 32 points to go with his 8 rebounds and 5 assists, and Jalen Brunson was a big help off the bench with 12 points.
Said Carlisle in review of Luka's night: "He's still getting his game legs under him, and that'll get there. But look, he understands the game as well as any 21-year-old I've ever been around. He'll make the adjustments that are necessary."
The Suns' top scorer was Devin Booker with 22, but his most key play came in Phoenix' final possession, when with under a half-minute left he missed a long jumper but the equally long rebound was corralled by Phoenix.
Mikal Bridges had 18 for Phoenix.
Said Carlisle after the game: "Winning and losing in the Western Conference this year is going to come down to concentration on details. There's just a few things we've got to do better."
Or, really, one thing: Close.
HALF: The Suns lead the Mavs, 53-45 - with Phoenix' Devin Booker serving as the unstoppable weapon so far. The Mavs are shooting 15 of 47 from the field (31.9%) and 5 of 19 from three (26.9%). ... and while defensive effort and even forcing the Suns into some foul trouble has been a factor, Booker's 13 points have been a major story.
Which of course means Mikal Bridges' 15 points at the half deserve mention.
Luka has 13 points but is just 5 of 17 from the floor.
FIRST Q: SUNS 23, MAVS 22: Devin Booker has 11 points, Luka Doncic has seven - despite some shooting struggles - and the Mavs close the first quarter with a nice 7-0 run.
Defensive effort is keeping the Mavs afloat so far.
OH-FOR: The Mavs are 3-of-15 from the floor and Luka is 0-of-6 but it seems like 100 of those Luka misses came on one bad offensive-rebound-tip-drill, so no worries. Right?
Seriously, with 4:20 left in the first, Dallas is down just 14-10 ... so, no worries.
And just before the 3 minute mark, Luka gets a bucket to go with his 2 made free throws.
FACIAL: Dwight Powell is the starting center ... rehabbed and ready, all the way up to his face, which has the ability to get others in foul trouble ...
KP RAMP-UP: Kristaps Porzingis is of course in active tonight in Phoenix. But coach Rick Carlisle tells Chuck Cooperstein on the radio pregame show that Porzingis is about to “ramp up” his rehab work on this road trip as the Mavericks will go to LA following this game in Phoenix.
STARTERS: Mavs starters: Hardaway, DFS, Powell, Richardson, Doncic.
PHX starters: Bridges, Crowder, Ayton, Booker, Paul. - ht Coop.
The Mavericks took the league by storm last season, finishing as a tough seventh seed (only three wins behind the third seed) and displayed flashes of brilliance in the 2020 NBA Playoffs. With the addition of Josh Richardson, European duo Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis (traveling with the team this week while rehabbing his knee) will aim to compete for an NBA title.
Following an impressive 8-0 win streak in the NBA ‘bubble’, the Phoenix Suns were determined this offseason to end their ten-year playoff drought, bringing in all-star guard Chris Paul to play alongside emerging superstar Devin Booker and talented big man Deandre Ayton.
PRESEASON SUMMARY: The Mavericks impressed in their first exhibition matches, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks twice and falling in an overtime game to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Phoenix had a disappointing preseason, losing all four games to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers.
INJURY UPDATE: For Dallas, Porzingis has been ruled out for the opener and is expected to return from his offseason knee surgery in January. The Suns will be short-handed as well, ruling out Frank Kaminsky, Dario Saric, and Abdel Nader.
WHEN: Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - 9:30 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Phoenix Suns Arena, Phoenix, AZ
TV/RADIO: ESPN, Fox Sports Arizona, Fox Sports Southwest.
THE FINAL WORD: "I think we're ready. I think we're all on the same page..." - Dwight Powell.