Things got heated near the end of Sunday’s Suns-Mavericks showdown in Dallas.
Luka Doncic fouled Kevin Durant after missing a potential game-tying floater in the final seconds. Following the foul, Devin Booker appeared to be saying something to a referee when Doncic went over to the Suns guard and got in his face.
The two stars exchanged words face-to-face before being separated.
Kevin Durant scored 37 points, including the tiebreaking jumper with 11 seconds to go, to lift the Phoenix Suns to a 130-126 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in a thrilling showcase of stars for both teams.
The first meeting between Durant and Dallas’ Kyrie Irving since they were traded by Brooklyn before the deadline last month was even when Durant pulled up over Tim Hardaway Jr. and Irving for the lead.
Luka Doncic had 34 points for Dallas, but his point-blank shot for a tie rimmed out before he fouled Durant after the rebound with 3.5 seconds remaining.
After the play was over, Doncic and Devin Booker, who scored 36 points, ended up nose-to-nose and both were issued technical fouls before Durant hit two free throws to clinch the victory.
It was the 14th technical of the season for Doncic, two shy of the threshold for a one-game suspension.
Irving scored 30 points exactly four years to the day since the last time he faced Durant, when his Boston Celtics blew out Durant and his Golden State Warriors 128-95.
“Based on the words, I don’t think so,” said Doncic, who has 14 technical fouls this season, two shy of an automatic one-game suspension. “It’s fine. It’s just a competitive game.
“It’s all good. Just next time, don’t wait until there’s three seconds left to talk.”
As Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said, “The bad blood is still there” between the Suns and the Mavs stemming from Dallas’ upset over the West’s top seed in last season’s second round. It was a chippy series highlighted by Doncic muttering, “Everybody acting tough when they’re up” while walking to the locker room after the Mavs’ Game 5 loss and standing next to Booker and smirking at him during Dallas’ Game 7 blowout victory.
“You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly-friendly,” Booker said after scoring 36 points in Sunday’s win. “Here you go. We got some smoke.”
It was a frustrating afternoon for Doncic, who was bothered by soreness in his left thigh. He spent his normal rest time early in the second quarter in the Mavs’ locker room doing some stretching with Mavs manual therapist Casey Spangler.
Doncic said the thigh has been an issue for the past week and especially Sunday, when he said his left leg seemed weaker when he tried to shoot or jump. He had 34 points, but Doncic had a poor shooting performance, going 8-of-23 from the floor including 1-of-9 from 3-point range. However, Doncic said his sore thigh had nothing to do with his missed shot with the game on the line.
“I just missed it,” Doncic said. “One of my friends texted me: ‘I would have even made that.'”
The other superstars in the game certainly played up to their billing.
Mavs guard Kyrie Irving, whose trade request from the Nets helped lead to the Suns’ opportunity to deal for Durant, had 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting and seven assists. Nevertheless, Dallas dropped to 2-5 in games Irving has played alongside Doncic, with all five losses decided in the final seconds.
When players are asked who the top trash talkers are, one of the first answers will be Booker or Doncic. Inserting those two square in the middle of a rivalry between two teams that is this intense already is like pouring gasoline on a fireworks factory and lighting a match.
The Suns were mostly able to shut down the Mavericks’ supporting cast in the second half after guard Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed five of his six 3s over the opening half. Christian Wood scored eight straight in the fourth quarter and Hardaway got one more triple but that was about it.
The second half was a wild ride punctuated by a lot of scoring from all four major superstars. As a Suns fan, though, it has to be said how frustrating it was to watch Luka Doncic repeatedly bump into smaller Suns players (poor Cam Payne was victimized multiple times) and then cry to the officials for a foul. Problem is, he more often than not got the call.
One less heralded Sun, Josh Okogie, had an awful time of things, repeatedly left wide open from the corner and repeatedly bricking it. Another, Ish Wainwright, was unexpectedly hot and hit four huge threes to keep the Mavericks from pulling away in the fourth quarter.
The game was tied at 124 with a minute play, and Ayton put the Suns up with a tip in off a Booker miss. But the Mavericks answered right back with a Dwight Powell jam off a nice lob from Doncic.
Then Kevin Durant did his thing. Driving down the left side with less than fifteen seconds to play, the 6’10 or 6’11 (depends who you ask) scoring maestro rose up over the 6’5 Hardaway Jr. to bury a two point bucket with 11 seconds left, putting the Suns up 128-126.
Doncic had a great look on the other end, but missed a chip shot that rolled off the rim and was grabbed by Durant, who was fouled.
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