Suns look to end struggles in Dallas
GameTrax: Stats and more
By MATT BEARDMORE
The Dallas Mavericks' defense has struggled over the last two games. Coach Rick Carlisle's team could get tested again if the high-scoring Phoenix Suns can repeat their most recent effort.
Dallas goes for its sixth straight home win over the Suns, who begin a potentially difficult three-game trip.
Since holding their opponents to 93.0 points and 43.4 percent shooting during a 12-game winning streak from Nov. 20-Dec. 11, the Mavericks (20-5) have allowed an average of 100.5 points on 48.5-percent shooting in the last two contests.
Dallas wasted a 20-point first-half lead in Monday's 103-99 loss to Milwaukee, and nearly let a 17-point third-quarter edge slip away Wednesday before holding on for a 103-98 victory over Portland.
"We circled the wagons and got it together," Carlisle said after his team held the Trail Blazers to a pair of field goals in the final 2:59 and improved to 4-1 on a season-high six-game homestand.
Meanwhile, Suns coach Alvin Gentry was pleased how his team pulled itself out of a season high-tying three-game slide with Wednesday's 128-122 victory over lowly Minnesota. Phoenix (12-12) hit 15 3-pointers and shot 50.6 percent from the field as seven players scored in double figures.
"Right now, it's the best thing that could have happened to us," said Gentry, whose team also travels to Oklahoma City and San Antonio on this trip. "We just needed a win."
The Suns also need to improve a defense yielding a league-worst 110.0 points per game.
Having center Robin Lopez back may help. With Lopez in the lineup Wednesday after missing 14 games with a sprained left knee, the Suns outrebounded the league's best rebounding team by seven.
While he was out, Phoenix was outrebounded by at least that amount seven times.
"I'm really excited to continue to play with Robin and he did a good job tonight," said Channing Frye, who grabbed a team-high nine boards and hit a career high-tying seven 3s. "He really helped out (with 12 points and eight rebounds). ... It's kind of easier to get up and pressure a little more when you got Big Fella back there."
Frye and Grant Hill might need that help trying to slow down Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler.
Nowitzki, averaging a team-high 25.0 points, has shot 63.1 percent from the field over the last seven games, while Butler is coming off a season high-tying 23-point effort against Portland. He scored nine straight for Dallas in the third quarter.
"He has no fear of big shots and big situations," Carlisle said.
In his second game after being acquired in a trade with Washington, Butler had 15 points during the Suns' last visit to Dallas, a 107-97 Mavericks win on Feb. 17. That victory sparked the Mavericks' season-best 13-game winning streak.
Steve Nash, who had a season-high 19 assists Wednesday, is averaging 17.8 points with 11.2 assists in the Suns' last five games in Dallas.
Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd, the only active player with more assists than Nash, had 18 points, 10 assists and a career-high seven steals in the Feb. 17 victory.
Suns leading scorer Jason Richardson averaged 20.3 points on 51.0 percent shooting as Phoenix dropped two of three to the Mavericks in 2009-10.