The Phoenix Suns facing the Dallas Mavericks on TNT, that sounds familiar. It was this exact pairing last season in last January that was the turning point for the Suns as they simultaneously broke the "TNT Curse" and with the benching of Amare Stoudemire in the fourth quarter got the message that they could win with defense. Things took off from there and the rest is history.
Tonight's game isn't likely to have as much impact on either team. Going into the All-Star break, the Mavericks are securely in second place in the conference while the Suns are essentially tied for the eighth spot with the Jazz and Grizzlies.
The Mavericks have survived the loss of Caron Butler to a season-ending knee injury through the continued fantastic play of Dirk Nowitzki along with their bevy of guards led by Jason Kidd.
"They're playing great, they really are. They had a little skid there when Dirk was out but he's back and they're playing great. They're good defensively, they play small. Sometimes they play with three guards and play Dirk as a five so we just got to be ready for all that. We just got to be solid in what we're doing," Alvin Gentry said.
For the Suns, everyone is healthy including Goran Dragic who stayed late after shootaround today trying to get his mojo back. Dragic understands that in sports there's always someone ready to take your minutes if you don't deliver. He's committed to getting back in shape and will stay in town over the All-Star break working on his game.
Genry says that he wants to give Dragic a chance to shake the rust off and that he'll the first point guard off the bench. But, "I did tell him that he has to perform. We're in a situation now where we don't have time to waste. If we're going to put him out there we expect him to play at a real high level and perform and he if doesn't we'll have to go with Z again."
Today is Marcin Gortat's 27th birthday. The team sang to him (you can hear that here) and presented him with a fancy cake. The Polish Hammer has other presents in mind however, "I got a bigger birthday present actually. I'm going to play against the team who game me the best contract ever."
The Mavericks gave Gortat an offer sheet for five-years, $40 million when he was a restricted free agent that the Magic ended up matching.
The game tips at 8:30 p.m. local time and will be broadcast nationally on TNT along with Sports 620 KTAR radio. Fans can follow along with other Suns fans at the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.