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Luka Doncic still nightmare, turnovers remain issue: Takeaways from Suns loss to Mavericks

DALLAS — Luka Doncic continues to be a nightmare for the Phoenix Suns.

The superstar point guard finished with 41 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and four steals in 38 minutes in leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 123-113 win Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 20,377 at American Airlines Center.

Even with the addition of Royce O’Neale, who hardly guarded Doncic by the way until the end of the game with the Suns trailing by double digits, Phoenix has no answers.

Grayson Allen is too small. Doncic just overpowers him or shoots over the top. He picks apart the Suns' zone with his passing, scores in transition, and gets to the line when all else fails.

And he’s even harder to guard with Kyrie Irving on the floor. This is the first time Phoenix played against the Mavs this season with Irving in the game.

With the win, Dallas (33-23) takes the season series, 2-1, and now has the same record as Phoenix (33-23).

The Suns dropped from fifth to seventh in the West while the Pelicans and Mavs moved up to fifth and sixth, respectively. Here are more takeaways as the Suns complete the second of a road back-to-back Friday at Houston (24-31).

Suns can’t win with Durant, Booker turnovers

The Suns committed 16 turnovers that led to 29 Dallas points.

Not good.

Kevin Durant and Devin Booker combined for nine of those 16 turnovers with Durant committing five and Booker totaling four.

Even worse.

The Suns can’t win when their two primary ball handlers are careless with the ball.

Sure, there was contact on some of them, but the Suns rely so much on them to not only score, but to create offense for others. Turnovers are this team’s bugaboo. Phoenix is nearly unstoppable when protecting the ball because it has efficient scorers and can get open looks.

Mavs 16-0 run to open 2nd half dooms Suns

The Suns led 63-60 at the half and kept everyone else outside of Kyrie Irving and Doncic in check.

But the game turned with Dallas’ 16-0 run to turn Phoenix’s three-point halftime lead into a 12-point hole within the first four minutes of the second half.

Jusuf Nurkic played his way off the court with ineffective play, Doncic hit back-to-back 3s that P.J. Washington followed with a deep one to force Suns coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout.

The Suns talked it over, came back out and allowed another 3 from Doncic and Josh Green nailed one from Fort Worth to force another Vogel timeout with Phoenix down 12.

Suns must figure out small ball looks with new additions

Thaddeus Young watching his first game from the bench from tap to buzzer is understandable.

He just joined the team as a free agent signing and his first and only practice with the team was Wednesday. Vogel probably made the right call keeping him on the shelf, but they signed Young to help them with small-ball lineups so Durant doesn’t find himself having to battle live bodies like Dereck Lively and Daniel Gafford on the glass.

Lively Jr. had three offensive rebounds while Gafford picked up, too. Dallas had 18 second-chance points and won the hustle award over the Suns.

The Suns have two defenders now in O’Neale and Young, two veterans known for their defensive versatility. Vogel is a defensive coach. He has to figure out how to use these two on that end.

Vogel said after the game it didn’t matter who was Doncic’s primary defender because they were switching, but the Mavericks hunted the matchup with Allen.

Allen is having a career year shooting the 3, but O’Neale is the better proven defender. The Suns didn’t add $20 million on their luxury tax bill to swing a trade for him and David Roddy to not have him guard the other team’s best offensive perimeter player.

Vogel has options in Nassir Little, Josh Okogie and O’Neale to take on defensive challenges, but at one point, he had Durant, Okogie, Little, Allen and O'Neale on the floor.

Have opinions about the current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns still no answers for Doncic, turnovers costly in loss to Mavs