PHOENIX — Taking the court for the first time this season without the services of their leading scorer, the Dallas Mavericks tried to collectively raise their level of play Sunday in Phoenix.
Giving versatile forward Harrison Barnes his first scheduled rest of the season, the Mavericks tried to make up for his team-high 19.2 points per game. The Mavs also traveled to Phoenix without veteran reserve J.J. Barea (rest) and 26-year-old sharpshooter Seth Curry (left shoulder injury), attempting to salvage a split in the season series with the Suns after dropping two of the previous three matchups between the teams. But with their veteran players only seeing time in the first half for the second straight game, the shorthanded Mavericks (32-48) wouldn’t have enough firepower to avoid a 124-111 defeat.
Inserting undrafted rookie Dorian Finney-Smith into the first unit at small forward to replace Barnes, the Mavericks tried to sprint to a fast start. Mavs center Nerlens Noel then got the visiting team going in the right direction early, opening the scoring with a three-point play inside.
Dirk Nowitzki followed suit a short time after that, converting an and-one score of his own to put the Mavericks up 11-5. The 13-time All-Star’s three-point bomb from the top of the key came the next time down the floor to put the Mavs up by seven. But after a 17-0 Phoenix run gave the Suns (24-57) the lead, the home team took a 40-29 advantage into the second stanza following T.J. Warren’s three-pointer to beat the first-quarter buzzer.
Surrendering 15 points to Warren during the opening quarter, the Dallas defense tried to stiffen in the second period. Instead, the Suns’ lead continued to grow to 16 before veteran Mavs guard Devin Harris’ timely three trimmed the deficit to 45-32.
Backup big man Dwight Powell took matters from there, connecting on a trey of his own to bring the Mavericks within 10. Harris then stepped back into the scoring with another triple to inch the Mavs within six, 49-43. But despite another pair of threes from Harris and Powell in the quarter as the Mavs battled back to retake the lead on Nowitzki’s jumper, the Suns regained control behind sharpshooter Devin Booker to escape into the half with a 68-65 edge.
Led by Booker’s 17 first-half points on 6-of-11 shooting, the Suns’ 58.5 percent from the field bettered the Mavericks’ 47.1 percent through two quarters. The Suns also held a 22-21 rebounding edge, overcoming 17 Dallas points off Phoenix’s six turnovers in the half.
Opting to rest Nowitzki, Noel and swingman Wesley Matthews to start the third, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle inserted second-rounder A.J. Hammons, undrafted rookie Jarrod Uthoff and Powell into the first unit. The coach also handed the primary scoring duties over to Ferrell, hoping the Mavericks could remain afloat behind the undersized guard.
However, with Ferrell on the bench, the Suns would again open up a double-digit advantage after Tyler Ulis’ three gave Phoenix a 92-78 lead with 4:18 left in the third. And despite the best efforts of Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino in the third, the Mavericks trailed by as many as 19 before entering into the final quarter in a 104-85 hole.
Continuing to put up a fight after Powell swished his third three-pointer of the night, the Mavericks tried to quickly crack a dent in their deficit as the fourth quarter got underway. But after Derrick Jones Jr.’s emphatic slam, the Suns held a 108-89 advantage with 8:41 left to play.
The margin grew to 22 from there as the Suns continued to keep the young Mavs at bay. And after Dragan Bender’s jumper put the Suns up 119-97 with 4:58 remaining, Carlisle called for a timeout before finishing the loss with the Dallas reserves.
Scoring 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 3 of 6 from three-point range, Ferrell led the Mavericks in a losing effort while grabbing four rebounds and dishing four assists. Powell pitched in a career-high 21 points and five rebounds off the bench, and Uthoff finished with 12 points and nine boards in the second unit. Nowitzki added 11 points in 20 minutes of action. Brussino finished with 11 points as well in a reserve role.
Booker and Warren finished with 21 points apiece to lead six Suns in double figures. The Suns also finished the game outshooting the Mavericks, 55 percent to 42.3 percent, overcoming Dallas’ 44-43 rebounding edge and 12 turnover for 21 Mavericks points.
Note: The Mavericks will now return to their home floor on Tuesday, welcoming in the Denver Nuggets. Denver leads the season series 2-1. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. That game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Harrison Barnes (rest) — out
J.J. Barea (rest) — out
Seth Curry (left shoulder injury) — out