Booker shines as Suns dominate Mavericks

It’s a sad state of affairs for our region when the brightest Sun we’ve seen in the past week or two has been inside American Airlines Center.

Someday, we’ll see that big ball of fire in the sky again. But for now, it was Devin Booker who lit up the town for 46 points as the Phoenix Suns blistered the Mavericks 132-109 Wednesday night before a sold-out AAC and national television audience.

The Booker outburst was largely responsible for the Suns outscoring the Mavericks 43-20 in the third quarter.

“It was our defense,” said Luka Dončić. “Book went off. He couldn’t miss. He destroyed us.”

The Mavericks lost for the third game in a row as they dropped to 24-20 while the red-hot Suns continued to climb in the Western Conference standings. Their seventh consecutive victory moved them to 26-18.

“We didn’t execute anything defensively,” coach Jason Kidd said. “Book was going and when he gets going, he’s one of the best at the midrange and getting to the basket.

“And he doesn’t have to go get it in the first quarter. He was patient and he picked his spots and took advantage of it.”

Hard as it is to believe, the Mavericks actually had control of the game way back in the second quarter when they were up by as much as 16 points and still were up 54-40 five-plus minutes before halftime.

But the Mavericks were victimized by a 42-9 Phoenix power-surge bridging halftime that landed the Suns an 82-63 lead with 5:11 left in the third quarter.

And that was that.

“We played very physical the first 17, 18 minutes,” Luka said. “But then our physicality went down and that’s when we struggled. We got to be physical the whole game.

“When we play physical for 48 minutes, it’s tough to beat us. We got to play physical, but without fouling.”

Booker was fabulous. He had a 52-point game last week in New Orleans and this gem was built on a steady diet of midrange jump shots and the occasional long ball.

The Mavericks got 34 points from Dončić but only 10 after halftime. It was an apparent tweak to his right leg that slowed him. It happened just before halftime and the superstar clearly wasn’t the same afterward.

“I twisted the same ankle,” he said. “but I’m fine.”

Not so much for the Mavericks’ effort and focus after halftime.

“If you give the effort, good things happen,” Kidd said. “That doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win. But it gives you an opportunity and that’s all you can ask for.”

With Luka hobbling, the Mavericks were ill-equipped to make a rally. He left the game briefly in the middle of the third quarter, but returned – clearly favoring his right leg.

The Mavericks already were missing Kyrie Irving (right thumb sprain) and Dwight Powell (left eye corneal abrasion). Add to that the fact that Grant Williams, who had started for Irving, got ejected in the third quarter with his second technical foul and the Mavericks were quite short-handed.

They did welcome back Dante Exum after he missed nine games with a foot problem.

And the Suns looked nothing like the team that the Mavericks beat 128-114 with a big fourth quarter on Christmas. First of all, they had two of their missing starters from that game back in action as center Jusuf Nurkic and guard Bradley Beal were in the lineup.

But full-strength Phoenix wasn’t ready for the physical style the Mavericks came with in the first half. After getting roughed up by the Boston Celtics on Monday, the Mavericks clearly were intent on hitting first in this one.

They got under Durant’s skin early and also got on top of the Suns on the scoreboard, bolting ahead 46-30 early in the second quarter.

The Suns hadn’t won their last six games by accident, though. They showed some grit and closed the gap to 58-57 at halftime as Booker came alive.

The worst part of the half, though, was that Dončić came up limping at the halftime buzzer and picked up a technical foul on his way to the locker room. That allowed Phoenix to tie the game with a free throw before the third quarter began.

It was unfortunate because the Mavericks had played a terrific first half until the last four minutes, when the Suns asserted their will and snuffed every other Maverick not named Luka.

X: @ESefko

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