Another Solar Eclipse for the Suns

The Mavericks have set a bad precedent this season for facing a team after beating them in the last meeting. Prior to Monday’s game against the Suns, Dallas had played four games against teams they had beaten in a previous matchup this season — and lost almost every one of them. The exception is the Lakers, but they don’t count as competition right now. Combine that bad precedent with the fact that the Suns just feel like an underperforming team waiting to explode, and I wasn’t expecting much.

After all, Phoenix has one of the very best backcourts in all of the NBA with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, a great rim-protector the Mavericks know all too well in Tyson Chandler, and solid role players such as long-distance sniper Mirza Teletovic. They seem to have an interesting blend of players on paper, and considering their frenetic pace (second in the league), it makes sense to think they’d give an old, immobile team like the Mavericks some trouble.

Yet, despite all this, Dallas has handled them nicely in the first two meetings of the season, and Monday’s win pushed the Mavs back to three games over at 14-11. In typical fashion, no one player’s performance stood out; it was a balanced attack that allowed many players to get a chance to put their fingerprints on the game.

Mavs fans are probably the most excited about Chandler Parsons‘s encouraging night, and that’s a fitting place to start the recap. It’s been a challenge to watch Parsons progress so far this season, with the lingering effects of last offseason’s knee surgery still holding him back and forcing the team to bring him along slowly. Prior to Monday’s game, he hadn’t logged more than 26 minutes, and there were times he clearly wasn’t anywhere near his best. While it seems unlikely he’s ready to be himself yet, he showed enough against the Suns to gives fans hope that such a time is coming.

Just look at those pretty box score numbers. He set a new season-high with 28 minutes played. He shot 50 percent from the field (5-for-10). He nailed a couple of threes in five attempts. He even shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the line, yet another area of concern for him on the young season. Overall, Parsons finished with 17 points, his second-best effort of the year, and even better, he gave us all a reason to believe the hobbled version of himself may soon be a thing of the past.

The first few times I saw Parsons play this season, I raved and raved about him here. I said the lineup looked so much better with him on the court, and that I couldn’t wait for him to get more playing time. Over the next several games, though, I began to think less of him. After all, I never got to witness pre-surgery Parsons, so all I’ve got to go on is what he’s been this year. Barring a few occasional offensive outbursts, it hasn’t been good.

His skill set is obviously intriguing. A 6-foot-9 forward who can knock down a three, pass the ball, and rebound is an extremely valuable asset offensively, but his on/off stats this year can’t be denied: the Mavs are a much better offensive team when Parsons is on the bench. A year ago, when he was healthy, this was not at all the case. I know I haven’t seen the real Chandler Parsons yet, and I hope he’ll come around. Games like the one he had against the Suns make me believe he will, and that’s critical if this team is going to accomplish anything.

It wasn’t just Parsons who had a nice game Monday, however. Devin Harris continued his resurgence, scoring 12 points and stealing the ball an incredible six times, and Raymond Felton shot an impressive 6-for-11 in the process of keeping his recent success alive as well. Deron Williams led all Mavericks with 18 points, Zaza Pachulia crashed the glass for 12 rebounds, and Dirk Nowitzki chipped in 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists for a nice, well-rounded performance, even if his scoring has dropped off lately.

This was a great win, and it came at a perfect time. Aside from the six-game winning streak the Mavericks ran off earlier this season, they’ve often struggled to gain traction. It always seems like they’re on the brink of falling below the .500 mark, but they manage to fend it off every time. The hope is that Parsons and Wes Matthews continue to return to form and that the team only gets better from here, because the ceiling is only so high without them making a full recovery.

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