Backcourt health a question in Suns-Mavs matchup
The Phoenix Suns learned before Tuesday's game that they would once again be without Devin Booker, their leading scorer and assist man. Yet they managed to find a silver lining by snapping a six-game skid with a 19-point second-half comeback to beat the Sacramento Kings.
They hope to take that momentum to Dallas for a game Wednesday night against the Mavericks, a team they've already defeated twice this season, including once without Booker.
Perhaps with another night's rest, Booker, who sat out with back spasms that flared Sunday against Charlotte, will return to the lineup.
Booker was listed as questionable Tuesday afternoon but was unable to play. It was the 11th time this season that Booker has been forced to sit.
Meanwhile, the Mavs, losers of three straight and 11 of 14, might be without key members of their starting backcourt. Rookie sensation Luka Doncic and second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr., are listed as questionable for Wednesday's game.
Smith sat out Tuesday's practice with what was described as mid-back tightness. Doncic, whose injury was described as a lower back strain, did manage to practice.
The Mavs (18-22) could certainly use all the healthy bodies they can muster against their unlikely nemesis. Over the last two seasons, Phoenix is 5-0 against Dallas while holding the Mavs to 93 points a game.
"They look forward to us. I don't what it is ... it just happens," Mavs guard J.J. Barea said of the Suns' success against his club. "You feel more comfortable against some teams than others."
Tuesday's rally notwithstanding, the Suns (10-32) know their chances of winning are significantly reduced without Booker, who missed 28 games last season with a variety of ailments. Their victory over Dallas last month was the only time Phoenix had won this season without Booker, until beating the Kings.
Booker is averaging 24.8 points and 6.9 assists a game.
"There is no frustration, that's just basketball," Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov said of Booker's frequent absences due to injury. "He has to invest a lot more time and everything else in his body and understand that he's got to be in top shape."
Kelly Oubre Jr. led Phoenix in the 115-111 win over Sacramento with 26 points. Rookie big man Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Dallas will be looking to avenge its two double-digit losses at Phoenix, and is also smarting from a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. Playing without LeBron James, the Lakers rallied from a 15-point second-quarter deficit with a 32-13 third quarter en route to a 107-97 victory.
It was easily the most disappointing loss for the Mavs, who dropped to 15-4 at home, after coming off a 1-3 road trip. Dallas figured to have the upper hand because it has been tough to beat on its home floor, and the Lakers were playing the second night of a back-to-back, just as the Suns will be doing.
Phoenix, which is 4-15 on the road, is 0-6 this season when finishing up a back-to-back set.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2019