The Dallas Mavericks built a 17-point first-half lead over the Phoenix Suns in their season opener only to see it slip away in the third quarter. Dallas actually increased it to 22 in the opening minutes before the Suns punched back to cut the advantage to five heading into the final period. Phoenix completed the comeback in the fourth to pick up the 107-105 victory, despite Luka Doncic dropping 35 points in the Valley of the Sun.
The third quarter was a bad 12 minutes for Dallas no matter how fans look at it. They committed six turnovers and nine personal fouls to just three assists. Dallas made just 33.3 percent of their 18 field goal, and they were outscored by 12 points over the 12 minutes.
What went wrong for the Mavericks in the third quarter against the Suns, and what can the team learn from their mistakes?
What went wrong for the Dallas Mavericks in the third quarter of the season-opening loss to the Suns?
It was 62-45 at the start of the third quarter, and the Mavs had the ball. They knew the Suns would bring the fight after a rough first half, and Dallas was a bit complacent throughout the quarter. Luka Doncic even said so in his postgame presser.
"Yeah, I think we relaxed a little bit. We just think, not the game is done, but we just relax. You know it is a lot of points. We are going to get there, and we are going to win. We just can’t relax. It's happened a lot of times, and we can’t be blowing leads. This is a thing we have to work on, and we will for sure."
The Mavericks settled for ten 3-pointers of their 18 field goal attempts, and the Suns came out aggressive. They forced Spencer Dinwiddie to pick up his fourth foul and exit less than one minute into the quarter. Dallas was also in the penalty for the final seven minutes of the quarter after picking up their fifth team foul. The Suns took ten free throws in the quarter, but their aggressiveness was not just attacking the rim in the halfcourt.
Phoenix got out in transition after missed shots and turnovers, which resulted in some easy buckets by Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton without the defense set. Dallas needs to do a better job getting back in transition and making those shots more difficult going forward.
The Dallas Mavericks needed to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor, and that starts with Luka Doncic. Dinwiddie only played 53 seconds in the quarter, so they did not have his ability to attack the rim. They need Luka to get into the paint and create some easy shots. The Suns were switching pick and rolls for most of the quarter, but number 77 was too content settling for his step back.
It was clear the Suns were making a run early in the quarter, but head coach Jason Kidd did not take a timeout until it was already a 14-3 edge for Phoenix that cut the Mavs lead to 11. They were getting open looks in transition, and perhaps coach Kidd could have stopped the action a bit sooner. He was not a fan of doing that in his first season coaching Dallas, but it seemed like there was a moment after Ayton posted up and scored to make it a 7-0 run for the Suns.
Ultimately, Dallas needs to do a better job of stopping the bleeding moving forward. Whether that is attacking the rim, calling a quicker timeout, or just relying on their defense to get stops, they have to do better than they did in the third quarter of the season opener.
The third quarter was not the only reason the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Suns on Oct. 19, despite being up 22 points at one point. There was poor free throw shooting, a questionable coaching decision, and allowing 42 second-half points.
Overall, the Mavs need to be better, and they will have a chance to do that in their home opener on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies. Be sure to tune in and enjoy the game.