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Devin Booker, Suns Complete 8-0 Run in Bubble with Win vs. Luka Doncic, Mavs

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2020

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) dribbles as Dallas Mavericks' Trey Burke defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

If the Phoenix Suns don't end up getting a shot at the NBA playoffs, it will be a mild misfortune. 

They did their part Thursday, blowing out the Dallas Mavericks 128-102 to complete a perfect 8-0 record during the NBA restart in the Florida bubble. But Phoenix came into the day needing either the Memphis Grizzlies or Portland Trail Blazers to lose in order to earn a shot at the play-in series between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds in the Western Conference. 

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Only a Portland loss can get them to the Western Conference play-in round ... but the Phoenix Suns went 8-0 here and will start next season with the privilege of telling people how they haven't lost a basketball game since March 10, 2020

The Memphis Grizzlies didn't cooperate, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 119-106 in another Thursday afternoon game. That means Phoenix will need the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Blazers on Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET. 

Dan Favale @danfavale

"i'm a big brooklyn nets fan. [i'll] call my guy tyler johnson and make sure they give it their all." -devin booker https://t.co/pYpM327DHl

Regardless, the future appears bright for the young Suns, who meshed and played excellent basketball near Orlando. If their season is over, they can build on the fact that they did everything possible to claw their way back into postseason contention.

               

Key Stats

Devin Booker, PHX: 27 points, seven rebounds, five assists

Luka Doncic, DAL: 18 points, five rebounds

Dario Saric, PHX: 16 points, six rebounds

Boban Marjanovic, DAL: 18 points, 20 rebounds

Ricky Rubio, PHX: Seven points, 12 assists

Justin Jackson: 13 points

Booker Has Made a Strong Case to be Bubble MVP

With 27 more points on Thursday, Booker has averaged a cool 30.5 points per game during the NBA restart. And lest you accuse him of being just a scorer, he's also averaged six assists per contest. 

NBA @NBA

Devin Booker (23 PTS on 9-13 shooting) has the @Suns up 76-57 at the half! #WholeNewGame They must hold on to stay in the Western Conference Play-In race. https://t.co/4GhX9EQJbm

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

Booker froze his defender 🥶 https://t.co/YCp1PAP5W4

Booker is the face of the Suns, but there have long been questions about whether he was a complete enough player to lead a team. He answered them both this season and in Florida, leading the team to wins over the Mavs (twice), Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers

Seven of the team's eight wins in the bubble have come against teams that qualified for this year's playoffs. That's an impressive run, all spearheaded by Booker.

The Suns are going to be trouble for the rest of the NBA next season. 

              

Mavs Need the Defense to Improve

There's little doubt Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks can score at a high level. But they have gone just 3-5 in the bubble, and a large part has been the team's porous defense. 

That was on display again Thursday, even if the game was meaningless for the Mavs since their playoff seeding was locked in. But with the Los Angeles Clippers forthcoming, the Mavericks have to sturdy up on the defensive end. You need to get stops against well-rounded, deep teams like the Clippers. 

Doncic is a spectacular offensive player, but he'll have some tough opponents covering him in the postseason. If Dallas wants to shock the Clippers, it'll actually need to play defense. 

                  

What's Next? 

Dallas will begin preparing for a first-round series against Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Clippers. The Suns will gather around their televisions tonight, hoping the Blazers stumble. 

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