Suns, Mavericks rolling into key matchup at Dallas

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 8:29 PM

Two teams looking to separate themselves in the jam-packed Western Conference playoff picture meet Thursday when the Dallas Mavericks host the Phoenix Suns in their first game following the All-Star break.

With less than two months remaining in the regular season, the fifth-place Suns hold just a one-game advantage in the Western Conference standings on the seventh-place Mavericks, with each squad hoping to avoid the play-in tournament for seeds 7-10.

The Suns enter play Thursday winners in five of their last six games under first-year coach Frank Vogel.

“I think we’re finding a good rhythm, but we know how good the West is,” Vogel said. “We have to push the envelope to excel in all areas that we can, and really focus on the details. Out of the break, hopefully, we can start with a few W’s.”

Aiding the Suns’ winning ways has been the ability to field a healthy roster in recent months. After trading for Bradley Beal prior to the season, Phoenix boasted one of the top backcourts in the league, with forward Kevin Durant and guard Devin Booker already in place.

However, due to various injuries, the trio didn’t share the court together until Dec. 13.

Now in a position to play as a complete unit, the Suns are vying for a strong second half.

“Our togetherness has grown,” Durant said. “Being more of a unit, guys are understanding their roles and what they bring to the team. I think around this time you start to figure that out. For the most part, everybody is healthy. Brad (Beal) has got a couple tweaks, but I like how consistently we’ve played games together the last month or so.”

Durant’s 28.2 points per game lead the team, followed by Booker (27.5) and Beal (18.2).

No Western Conference team was hotter entering the break than the Dallas Mavericks.

Winner of six in a row, Dallas coach Jason Kidd thinks the team got even better following a pair of trade deadline acquisitions.

The Mavericks bolstered their roster by picking up big men Daniel Gafford from the Wizards and P.J. Washington from the Hornets.

“When you talk about adding P.J. and Gafford, we’ve gotten bigger and gotten a little more talent,” Kidd said. “P.J. can score, he can defend. Gafford can rebound, score and block shots. These two have been great. They’re excited to be here.”

In three games since their arrival, Gafford has averaged 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Washington has added 8.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg in three Dallas victories.

The newcomers join a Mavericks team that ranks third in the Western Conference with 118.7 points per game, much due to All-Star Luka Doncic’s conference-best 34.2 ppg. Kyrie Irving follows with 25.2 points per contest.

Phoenix and Dallas have split the first two meetings this year, with the Suns most recently picking up a 132-109 win in Dallas on Jan. 24. A Mavericks win Thursday would clinch their first season-series win over the Suns since the 2015-16 campaign.

–Field Level Media