Mavericks seek atonement against Clippers

December 13, 2018

Never have looks deceived more than on opening night of the NBA season.

Phoenix 121, Dallas 100.

The Suns shone.

The Mavericks non-conformed.

Since then, Dallas has regained its equilibrium while joining the group of contenders for the last few playoff spots in the rugged Western Conference about one-third of the way through the season.

The Suns (4-24) have fallen to their worst start in franchise history and are said to be listening to trade offers for veteran Trevor Ariza, acquired last summer to help shepherd the young core that included No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton. Tyson Chandler already has been sent to the Lakers.

Dallas continued to ride high in a 114-107 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday, winning its third straight game while extending home winning streak to 11 straight. The Mavs have won 12 of their last 15 overall.

About the only thing that went wrong Wednesday was when coach Rick Carlisle was ejected midway through the third quarter for arguing that a foul should have been called when Harrison Barnes was bumped twice on a drive through the lane.

"Blow the whistle," Carlisle said more than a few times before adding a visual by bringing his fingers toward his mouth.

Given the contact on the play, it seemed like a perfectly normal request.

After Carlisle left, the Mavericks took a double-digit lead midway through the fourth quarter and were not challenged thereafter while splitting the season series with the Hawks.

Barnes scored 25 points and Luka Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to help the Mavericks to their first victory over Atlanta since 2013, a stretch of 11 games.

It was the second matchup between Doncic and Young, taken two picks apiece and traded for each other on draft day. Doncic went third and Young fifth. Young had 24 points and 10 assists.

Doncic keeps up with Young to a degree, he told the Dallas Morning News, but "I mostly watched EuroLeague and soccer."

The Mavs will begin stretch of 10 road games in the next 13 games in Phoenix. The last time the teams met, Devin Booker scored 35 points and Ayton had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his NBA debut. Barnes missed the game with a hamstring injury.

This time, Booker is expected to miss his seventh straight game with a left hamstring injury and the Suns enter with a 10-game losing streak. They are staring a franchise-worst 15-game skid last season, when they wanted to ensure themselves the Ayton pick.

The Suns also had a 13-game losing streak in 2016, but this season was supposed to be different. With Ayton joining Josh Jackson, the fourth player taken in 2017, the years of building were supposed to bear fruit.

Instead, general manager Ryan McDonough was fired before the season began and the on-court struggles started.

Ariza was a healthy scratch in the Suns' 111-86 loss to San Antonio on Tuesday, the first time he had not played when in uniform. Even if the Suns receive an offer they like for Ariza, he cannot be traded until Saturday because he signed a free agent deal this summer. His contract is for $15 million.

TJ Warren had 23 points against the Spurs in his first full game back from injury after playing only 12 minutes in an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday before being ejected. The league announced Wednesday that he had been fined $15,000 for inappropriate language toward an official.

Ayton was the only other Suns player to make at least half of his shots from the field against the Spurs, when the Suns shot 40.2 percent and gave up another double-double, this time to Bryn Forbes (24/11).

Booker missed his sixth straight game with a left hamstring injury and veteran Jamal Crawford also sat out, when De'Anthony Melton made his third straight start at point guard.

The Suns started three rookies, and rookie reserves George King and Juwan Evans played for the first time this season.

"When you're coaching the game, you feel like you're coaching summer league because you have backups," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov told reporters. "We have a bunch of young guys, so it's extremely tough."