Suns 128, Mavs 102: 'You Can't Hurry Love' - Or Experience
The Dallas Mavericks' maturation process - the year-and-a-half turnaround from an NBA lottery team to a contender for the title of "next-big-thing'' power - has been a rapid one. And still, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are relative babies, wobbling toward taking their first NBA Playoffs steps.
"It's a very challenging matchup,'' coach Rick Carlisle said in a pregame session before Thursday afternoon's 128-102 Phoenix Suns win over Dallas in Orlando's NBA Bubble. "We'll learn a lot about ourselves as we beginning competing in the series.''
But, as Diana Ross and "The Supremes'' once sang, "You Can't Hurry Love.''
This is all about "process,'' as both former Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and Carlisle like to remind. (For some reason, DFW didn't like it when Garrett said it but accepts its truth from Rick). The regular-season finale against Phoenix is now part of that process, and in the history books for a Mavs team that this season vaulted to 43-32 and the No. 7 seed in the West.
And what will history say about Mavs-Suns?
The game's lack of importance (to Dallas) was evidenced by Porzingis sitting out (Boban Marjanovic started and in 29 minutes recorded 18 points, 20 rebounds and three assists and by Doncic getting his minutes in the first half, not starting the second, and settling for 18 points in 13 minutes.
Ideally, there is something that happened on Thursday that Carlisle's Mavs can take with them into Round 1 and the best-of-seven series likely to start on Monday in Orlando.
"Everything in meaningful,'' Carlisle said during an in-game interview. "Every time we step on the court we have an opportunity to get better. That's the way I look at it.''
How much does that help Dallas put behind it the fact that the Clippers in 2019-20 won all three meetings by an average of 11 points, or that the stellar combo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are just the sort of two-way studs that can trouble Luka (though he did average 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists against L.A.)? Or that KP's numbers also dip a bit (18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds) against them?
READ MORE: Inside Clippers' Plan To Stop Luka
“I’ve been in playoffs before, just in Europe,'' Luka said after the loss. "It’s not the same level, but it’s the same emotion.''
"They're going to play well,'' Carlisle insisted of Luka and KP. "They're both our leaders of our team on the floor. They're going to be the central focus of the Clippers' defensive plan. ...
"In the playoffs, there is a level of discipline and patience required. You're going to see the kitchen sink thrown at you. We've got to do our best to prepare those guys for whatever comes their way.''
Devin Booker (27 points) and the Suns (who went 8-0 in the bubble and now wait for help) threw at the Mavs here a desire that Dallas understandably did not match. And that's OK. They've been talking for more than a week about getting ready for the Clippers.
Now is that time.
"Everybody in the playoffs has (an) equal chance,'' Boban said. "I hope we surprise the Clippers."
Of course, if everything was truly "equal,'' there wouldn't be "surprises.'' We all know the truth. Not even The Supremes could "hurry love.'' And not even the Mavs can "hurry'' playoff maturity. ... but more baby steps are coming.