PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ season and home opener against the Dallas Mavericks was one of the team’s best efforts all season.
Their energy and offense matched Dallas every step of the way for a 121-100 win.
The energy from the opener returned on Thursday night against Dallas, but the game unfolded quite differently in a 99-89 Suns win to snap a 10-game losing streak.
Devin Booker’s heroics carried the Suns in crunch time of that win, but T.J. Warren’s consistency scoring the ball was the game-changer for Phoenix this time. Warren posted 11, eight, eight and three in the game’s four quarters for a season-high 30.
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“His ability to score is just extraordinary,” head coach Igor Kokoskov said after the game of Warren.
Taking away Warren’s two games he was ejected, he has scored at least 15 points in each of his last 12 games.
Warren can’t carry the offense like Booker can, though, and with Booker missing his fifth straight game, the Suns need support and balance from others for the offense to have the team in a winning position.
The bench came through, posting 42 points through only three players.
Richaun Holmes continues to make a case as the team’s fourth-best player this season, providing nonstop energy and making plays through it again and again.
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Mmmm NAH – @Rich_Holmes22 pic.twitter.com/9FSJtuzF62
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 14, 2018
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“It’s huge every night,” Jamal Crawford said of Holmes’ energy. “Everything he does is full-bore. He’s ready to go. You can depend on that every night and I think that’s a luxury.”
Holmes had 11 points, seven rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block.
Crawford’s mid-range jumper was on point, as it usually is, and his playmaking made up for De’Anthony Melton’s rough outing.
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Jamal with 15 points! pic.twitter.com/3UZucaH6kI
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 14, 2018
Crawford dropped 17 points with five assists, providing the threat off the bounce the Suns are desperate for with Booker out.
Then, there was Josh Jackson, who you can’t ever fault for his effort. And even though he shot 5-of-18 from the field, that effort and his pressure on the defense through drives undoubtedly helped his team tonight. His plus-14 backs that up, as does 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one steal in 34 minutes.
While Kokoskov noted Jackson has to make the simple play and decision more consistently, there’s no doubting that motor he runs on can’t be matched by just about anyone in the league.
“He was great,” Kokoskov said of Jackson. “Competing, being aggressive, making some shots — we love when he’s attacking the rim.”
The Suns don’t have many elite-level skills across their roster, but you have to consider energy a talent as Kokoskov always says, and the duo of Holmes and Jackson are top-notch in that department.
“It’s not always going to be scoring,” Crawford said of the energy the team played with. “Some things won’t come up in the stat sheet that are just as important.
“I thought [the energy] was terrific tonight.”
Holmes and Jackson have not only started to form an identity for the team’s second unit — they’ve created one and play with the intensity the Suns need to win games.
Speaking of that opener, Dallas thought they had a poor night shooting from deep at 10-for-33. That didn’t touch the awful performance they had on Thursday, making half of those attempts for a 5-of-33 mark.
They also had 23 turnovers, a testament to the wild athleticism and length the Suns present to opposing offenses when the energy levels are at a high.
On top of that, the Mavericks didn’t have anyone come close to Warren’s scoring number. Harrison Barnes finished with a team-high 15, while rookie Luka Doncic had 13 points, five rebounds and six assists.
“It doesn’t matter what records are or anything else, if you go bad in a couple of key categories, statistical categories, you’re going to have trouble winning on the road,” Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game.
The Suns are back at home on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Listen live to the action at 7 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.