The Dallas Mavericks return home for a game Tuesday night feeling much better about the road ahead following a victory Monday night over the surging Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavericks will now play host to the Phoenix Suns on the second night of a back-to-back having just dispatched the Thunder107-97 on the road. The result not only helped the Mavericks move forward following a road loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday, but it was the Thunder's first loss in six games.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis each delivered a double-double Monday. Doncic paired 29 points with 11 rebounds while Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds. It was the fourth game Porzingis played after his return from a three-week absence caused by a knee injury.
The Mavericks have now won six of their past eight games and are starting a stretch in which five of their next seven opponents have losing records. But just three of those seven games will be at home.
Tuesday's game is expected to include the Mavericks debut of Willie Cauley-Stein, who was acquired in a trade with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Cauley-Stein will give Dallas another inside presence after Dwight Powell was lost for the season due to an Achilles injury.
Defense was key for the Mavericks on Monday as the Thunder shot just 39.5 percent from the field. Oklahoma City was actually better from 3-point range, shooting 40 percent. Dallas also had a 56-48 rebounding advantage.
Against the Jazz two days earlier, Utah had a 54-44 rebounding advantage on the Mavericks. The Jazz also outscored Dallas 32-23 in the fourth quarter, and the late-game collapse was something the Mavericks were intent on fixing.
"We're learning things," Dallas' Dorian Finney-Smith said, according to the team's official website. "There are growing pains. I wish we didn't have to go through them, but we felt like we've given up a lot of games. That one (in Utah), they're a great team, a hot team. They made some plays and we didn't."
Tuesday's meeting will be the second of four between the Mavericks and Suns. Dallas earned a 120-113 victory at Phoenix on Nov. 29 when Doncic tied a career high with 42 points, one of his four games with at least 40 points this season. He also had a 42-point game on Nov. 18 against the San Antonio Spurs.
The Suns posted an impressive victory on Jan. 18 at Boston, but they are just 1-3 since and will enter off a 114-109 defeat at Memphis on Sunday. That game was played shortly after it was learned that former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash.
"Like I told them, there's no script for a day like (Sunday)," Suns head coach Monty Williams said, according to the Arizona Republic. "A lot of our guys were playing with a heaviness. ... As much as I'd love to give you something great about (the) game or some type of analysis as it relates to this game, it's just not that important right now."
The current schedule will not do Phoenix any favors, with games against the Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks following the visit to Dallas. The Suns are in a stretch in which they will play six of seven games on the road.
--Field Level Media