Suns’ rally over Mavs provides some ‘get-back’ for playoff exit

PHOENIX — The first part of Wednesday evening’s season opener conjured up the still-fresh painful emotions from final spring’s embarrassing playoff exit for the Phoenix Suns. Once once more, the Suns had been being ruled by way of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks at house.

That made the rally from a 22-point deficit for a 107-105 win on the Footprint Center that a lot sweeter for the Suns.

“If you get your asses kicked, you want to get your get-back,” Devin Booker advised ESPN’s Jorge Sedano all over the postgame on-court interview, acknowledging the humiliation from a 33-point blowout loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. “That’s just life.

“We nonetheless have 81 video games to move. I stated that sooner than the sport. It’s a excellent get started. I believe it is a excellent begin to display our staff if we are down early that we will be able to come again in video games.”

The Suns earned the top overall seed last season in large part because of their closing ability, as they were an NBA-best 33-9 in clutch games, as defined by the score being within five points in the final five minutes. In that sense, this was kind of a characteristic performance for Phoenix.

But this comeback had deeper meaning for the Suns, whose chaotic offseason that started with that awful loss to the Mavs included owner Robert Sarver putting the team up for sale under pressure in the wake of an investigation into the team’s workplace culture, tense contract negotiations with center Deandre Ayton that ultimately ended with the Suns matching a maximum offer sheet he signed with the Indiana Pacers and former starting forward Jae Crowder mutually agreeing with management not to report for the final season of his contract, among other things. And, of course, the NBA scheduled the Mavs to return to Phoenix for the opener, a made-for-TV rematch of that memorable playoff series.

“I believe any time you win within the NBA, it is cool,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But to overcome the staff that knocked you out, it does not erase that feeling, that harm, however it does assist you to develop.”

The Mavs led by 15 with 8:31 remaining after a scoring flurry by Dallas sixth man Christian Wood, who was acquired in a summer trade with the Houston Rockets. Wood scored 16 consecutive points for the Mavs in a 4-minute, 35-second span that bridged the third and fourth quarters, a run that began after Phoenix pulled within a point.

“We comfortable a bit bit,” said Doncic, who finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists but missed a 34-footer at the buzzer. “We suppose, now not that the sport was once finished, however we simply comfortable. ‘It’s numerous issues, we are going to get there, we are going to win.’ Like I stated, we simply cannot calm down. It’s took place numerous instances. We cannot be blowing leads. This is a factor we need to paintings on, and we can for certain.”

Booker checked back into the game with the Suns down 15 and then had seven of his 28 points and six of his nine assists in the fourth quarter. However, it was an unlikely hero who starred for the Suns down the stretch. Damion Lee scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter — when he played the entire frame in part because Cameron Johnson exited because of cramping — and hit the winning shot on a 10-foot fadeaway with 9.7 seconds remaining.

That game winner by Lee, who signed for the veterans minimum after serving as a reserve for the champion Golden State Warriors, came on the possession immediately after he gave up a tying and-1 drive by Doncic. He received a brief pep talk from Williams in the ensuing timeout.

“Coach simply appears at me and he stated: ‘Hey, pass make a play. Go make a play,”‘ said Lee, who is now 2-of-9 on tying or go-ahead field goals in the final minute during his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. “That’s what you need — a trainer that is all the time going to instill that self assurance in you, it doesn’t matter what occurs.”

Another surprising element of the Suns’ fourth-quarter rally: Chris Paul, who has earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s premier regular-season closers, watched the final 6:41 from the bench.

The Suns trailed by 12 when Paul checked out, and Williams’ plan was to rest the 37-year-old point guard for a few minutes before putting Paul back in to finish the game. However, Williams decided not to disrupt the rhythm the Suns established with Cameron Payne at point guard down the stretch.

“I’m all the time open-minded in the ones eventualities,” Williams said. “As a lot as you need to have Chris available in the market, I do know Chris needs to win. When I took him out, my plan was once to get him again in there at 3 [minutes]. Then the sport was once simply getting in an effective way and Cam was once enjoying smartly, so I did not need to take him out. I did not suppose it was once that massive of a call, however I assume this is because it is Chris.”

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