Few of the Suns themselves played with Shawn Marion in Phoenix, but fans of the team certainly know and remember him well. They might not remember him quite like he appeared on Monday night, though. After being featured somewhat on offense early in his career, Marion settled into more of a versatile two-way role during Mike D'Antoni's tenure as Phoenix head coach. Pretty steadily since then, Marion's had a reputation as an opportunistic scorer -- a player who gets his points without being the protagonist of many set plays. He doesn't even really shoot threes anymore after feasting from downtown in years past.
But on Monday in Dallas, Marion led his Mavericks to a 93-87 win by stepping in as an understudy to the Mavericks' regular alpha scorer, Dirk Nowitzki, who remained (and remains) sidelined by some curious blend of conditioning and knee issues. "The Matrix" proved remarkably effective and quite the spectacle indeed, as Marion's uncanny maneuvering and signature chest-shot earned him a game-leading (and personal season-high) 29 points on 11-21 shooting and a 4-6 night from downtown. The folks at Mavs Moneyball appreciated Marion's starry turn:
For the last two years, Marion has never really been more than a defensive, fast break, hustle points type of player save for the few times the Mavs would isolate him ont he block on a mismatch. But this season, and tonight especially, Marion WAS the offense. Dallas routinely made sure to run pick and rolls and yes, even isolated him on the wing in the "dagger" possession with around 40 seconds left. Dallas would be slightly foolish to believe it can ride Marion to 29 points in 21 shots in Dirk's absence, but on nights like tonight and when the matchup is there, why not?
"Shawn was Dirk tonight."
Marion did have help, as Lamar Odom (11 points and 5 assists) and Jason Terry (12 and 4) each contributed points and passing while Brendan Haywood (10 points, six rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi (17 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks off the bench! Get 'em, Ian!) thrived in the paint.
Steve Nash struggled to find his shot, but the Suns got helpful individual performances from the likes of Grant Hill (19 points), Marcin Gortat (yet another terrific double double of 19 points and 17 boards) and Shannon Brown off the bench. The rest of the squad, though, got pretty soundly shut down by Dallas's top-notch defense.
In fact, the only other Sun to leave much of an impact on this one was Sebastian Telfair, who scored eight points off the bench, but had his stint cut short when a wayward swat at the face of the the fast-breaking Rodrigue Beaubois (which may have been something of a retaliation to a hard foul Telfair had absorbed earlier from Brian Cardinal) got him ejected.
The Mavericks' win was their third straight and brought them to 11-7 (and 2-0 without Nowitzki), while Phoenix dropped to 6-10 with the loss.