This was not exactly the way the Dallas Mavericks wanted to pack their bags and head out of the country to start a four-game road trip.
Devin Booker buried a 19-footer as time expired as the Phoenix Suns stunned the Mavs, winning 100-98 on Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
The loss snapped the Mavs’ four-game winning streak and also did damage to their playoff hopes.
Had the Mavs been able to make this a perfect 5-0 homestand, they would have flown to Toronto — they play the Raptors on Monday — knowing they were only one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Instead, the Mavs (28-37) find themselves two games behind the Nuggets after Booker darted all around them and got seemingly whatever he wanted.
While blowing past Wesley Matthews repeatedly, Booker scored the Suns’ final 10 points and finished with a game-high 36 points on 12-of-20 shots. He completely took over this game and the Mavs didn’t seem to have anyone to slow him down.
“Booker just went right through us three or four straight times,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m taking full responsibility for this whole thing, and next year when we play these guys again we’ll have to consider double-teaming him earlier in the game.”
Actually, the Mavs play the Suns in Phoenix on Apr. 9. So, trying to shut down Booker the next time the Mavs see him is less than a month away.
Booker just went right through us three or four straight times. I’m taking full responsibility for this whole thing ...
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle
As far as Saturday’s game goes, Harrison Barnes (23 points, seven rebounds) nailed a pair of free throws to give Dallas a 98-96 lead with 1:01 remaining in the game. But Booker tied it with an 11-footer with 46.4 seconds left.
The Mavs had a chance to regain the lead, but Matthews misfired on a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left. That set the stage for Booker to be the hero.
But first, there was a little controversy.
As the Suns crossed midcourt, referee Leroy Richardson inexplicably blew his whistle and signaled as if he was going to give the Mavs a timeout. However, since the Mavs didn’t have possession of the ball, they can’t call a timeout — and they weren’t trying to call for a timeout.
Thus, an inadvertent whistle was the call, and the Suns resumed possession of the ball — taking it out of bounds.
Eventually, after a Suns’ timeout with 10.1 seconds left, the ball was tossed to Booker on the inbounds play and he milked the clock to the very end before hoisting up a dramatic shot that nestled through the nets and sent the Mavs home in a foul mood.
Devin played on another level. What more can you say?
Suns coach Earl Watson
“A dominant performance tonight and throughout the whole game, especially down the stretch,” Suns coach Earl Watson said of Booker. “Wesley Matthews is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in our league.
“We recognized that and we respect that. Devin played on another level. What more can you say?”
Carlisle took the blame for the final shot by Booker.
“You know, that’s on me,” Carlisle said. ‘Clearly we should have gone and double–teamed the guy the whole fourth quarter.
“That’s my fault.”
For the Mavs, Dirk Nowitzki was phenomenal in defeat, drilling 10-of-14 shots and finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds while posting his seventh double-double of the season.
Nowitzki was 5-of-6 from the field with 13 points in the first quarter, while his teammates were just 1-of-10 with 11 points.
“It’s sad to get (a game like this from Nowitzki) and throw it away, because we couldn’t close it,” Carlisle said. “Look, we worked hard to get a six-point lead towards the end.
“With two minutes go to that’s where you’ve got to bear down and you’ve got to get stops.”
The Mavs got very little from Seth Curry, who scored only three points and was just 1-of-8 from the field.
Look, we worked hard to get a six-point lead towards the end. With two minutes go to that’s where you’ve got to bear down and you’ve got to get stops.
“We put a guy his size on him in Eric Bledsoe,” Watson said. “We let (Derrick) Jones pick up whoever brought the ball up.
“Eric Bledsoe’s a great on-the-ball defender. It took a lot of Eric’s energy, he was inefficient from the field, but he’s a big three in transition.”
The Mavs trailed 25-24 after the first quarter, but led 47-45 at the half. However, they just couldn’t get enough sustained stops on defense against the Suns, who rode Booker all the way in the fourth quarter, when he tallied 14 points on 6-of-8 shots and helped the Suns leave town with a 22-44 record.
Dallas wound up shooting just 37.8 percent from the field, but did have season highs in free throws attempted (36) and made (33). Nevertheless, when the Mavs needed a defensive stop, they just couldn’t get it.
“I think a lot of it falls on the starters and how we’re getting off to (slow starts in) games,” Barnes said. “Containing penetration, that was the issue the second half of the (Los Angeles) Lakers game (this past Tuesday, the game against the (Brooklyn) Nets (on Friday) and then tonight.
“So we just have to do a better job of keeping guys in front of us.”