Two teams that have moved up in the Western Conference pecking order this season hope to rebound from significant setbacks when the Dallas Mavericks oppose the host Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
The Mavericks floundered in their rare shot in the national spotlight Tuesday in a 114-99 home drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak.
One night later, the Suns fell under .500 for the first time this season with a 140-132 home disappointment against the Washington Wizards.
The defeat was Phoenix's second straight and fifth in six games.
The Friday game features a Dallas team that had put up 142, 143 and 137 points in its three contests immediately prior to Tuesday's debacle, and a Phoenix club that has allowed 116 or more in four of its past five games, topped by the Wizards' 140-point effort.
The Suns' defensive skid has coincided with the loss of defensive-minded big man Aron Baynes to a hip injury. The veteran had been filling in for Deandre Ayton, who just recently passed the midpoint of his 25-game suspension.
Suns coach Monty Williams inferred that changes could be in store, especially if Baynes, as expected, has to miss a sixth straight game Friday.
The coach also threw himself under the bus for the defensive issues.
"Our defense, knowing who's hot, getting a hand up on guys who shoot 3-point shots ... That's inexcusable," he said after the Wednesday game. "A lot of it's on me. I have to get the guys and keep the guys in the game who are going to play the right way and bring the type of intensity we need to have in this organization."
Mavericks star Luka Doncic had a similar reaction after the Tuesday loss to the Clippers. Only he didn't verbalize it until a day later.
He was already on the freeway by the time the media was allowed in the Dallas locker room after the game.
"Not feeling great. I was (upset)," he said Wednesday of his early departure. "You just have to get through it. When we lose a game like this and I have a bad game, I feel like I let everybody down and I want to be alone.
"Next day, it's all better."
Doncic had 22 points in the loss, but he missed 10 of his 14 shots, including all eight of his 3-point attempts. His seven turnovers more than offset six assists.
The Mavericks and Suns will be meeting for the first time this season. They split their four-game series last year, with the home team winning every game by double figures.
Doncic and the Suns' young star, Devin Booker, will be going head-to-head for just the second time. They faced off in the teams' first meeting last season, with Booker getting the better of Doncic 35-10 in scoring in Phoenix's 121-100 home win. That contest was Doncic's NBA debut.
With Booker out of action, Doncic rebounded with 30- and 21-point efforts in Dallas' two home wins later in the season, adding 16 rebounds and 11 assists for a triple-double in a 120-109 victory on April 9.
--Field Level Media