The Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have changed a lot since they played each other in the Western Conference semifinals last year. The biggest change is that both teams made huge trades with the Brooklyn Nets last month to get superstars.
One thing hasn’t changed: Devin Booker and Luka Doncic still don’t like each other very much.
This was clear again when the two got in each other’s faces in the last seconds of the Suns’ thrilling 130-126 win at the American Airlines Center on Sunday afternoon.
After new Suns star Kevin Durant gave Phoenix the lead with a pull-up jumper, Doncic missed an open floater from 4 feet away that would have tied the score. This led to the fight. Doncic didn’t like what Booker said after the miss, so he yelled, “Shut the f—- up!” at him. He then walked over to his fellow All-Star guard and had more words with him, which led to double technical fouls.
Booker said that he was telling the official that Doncic had pushed him and that an offensive foul should have been called. Doncic said no.
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“From what you said, I don’t think so,” Doncic said. He has 14 technical fouls this season, which is two short of an automatic one-game suspension. “It’s okay. It’s just a game of the competition.
“Everything’s fine. Just don’t wait until there are three seconds left to talk the next time.”
Tim Hardaway Jr., a guard for the Mavs, said, “The bad blood is still there” between the Suns and the Mavs because Dallas upset the West’s top seed in the second round last year. It was a rough series, and Doncic said, “Everyone acts tough when they’re up” as he walked to the locker room after the Mavs lost Game 5 and standing next to Booker and smirking at him during Dallas’ blowout win in Game 7 were the highlights.
“You guys say you don’t want everyone to be friendly-friendly,” Booker said after scoring 36 points in Sunday’s win. “Here you go. We got some smoke.”
Doncic had a hard time in the afternoon because his left thigh was hurting. Early in the second quarter, he took his usual break and stretched with the Mavs’ manual therapist, Casey Spangler, in the locker room.
Doncic said that his thigh has been bothering him for the past week, and especially on Sunday when he tried to shoot or jump and his left leg felt weaker. Doncic scored 34 points, but he shot poorly. He made only 8 of 23 shots from the floor and only 1 of 9 from 3-point range. But Doncic said that his sore thigh had nothing to do with the fact that he missed a shot when the game was on the line.
“I just missed it,” Doncic said. “One of my friends sent me a text message saying, “I would have even made that.””
The other stars in the game lived up to their reputations.
Kyrie Irving, a guard for the Mavs, asked to be traded by the Nets, which gave the Suns the chance to trade for Kevin Durant. Irving scored 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting and had seven assists. Still, Dallas lost all five of the games in which Irving and Doncic played together, and all five were decided in the final seconds.
Durant and Booker scored a total of 73 points, even though Dallas’ defence gave up on trying to take the ball away from them and instead let Phoenix role players get open 3-point shots. The fact that reserve forward Ish Wainright made 4 out of 5 3-point shots in the second half was a big reason why Phoenix won.
Booker scored 36 points by making 15 of 25 shots and giving out 10 assists. Durant scored 37 points on 12-of-17 shooting, including the game-winning shot in the last minute. The Mavs doubled him up to get the ball out of his hands, but when he got the ball back, they didn’t send a second defender to stop him.
Even though the teams are rivals, Doncic said he has a lot of respect for the Suns’ talent.
He said, “I mean, they’re amazing.” “Book and KD make up one of the best teams in the league. I like it though. It’s not easy. I thought today’s game was great to watch.”