After opening the month by losing seven of their first eight games, the Phoenix Suns have quickly returned to form over the past week.
Phoenix looks to extend its winning streak to five games when it faces the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.
Cameron Johnson's return has made an immediate impact on the Suns, who cruised to a 128-97 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Playing in his third game since returning from a knee injury that kept him out more than two months, Johnson scored 24 points in 18 minutes.
Dario Saric had 19 points off the bench for Phoenix, which has moved up to a tie for sixth place in the Western Conference after dropping as low as 12th earlier this month. Even during the rough patch, Johnson said his team never panicked.
"It's the NBA -- you weather storms. It's life -- you weather storms," Johnson said. "Things don't always go your way. We've found that out the past couple years. That doesn't mean you tuck tail, run, sell the farm, hide away forever. We have a lot of confidence in our group. Top to bottom."
While Phoenix is trending in the right direction, Dallas has lost seven of its last nine games and eight of its last 11.
The Mavericks fell 127-126 to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday despite another strong performance from star Luka Doncic, who finished with 41 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Dwight Powell scored 22 points and Spencer Dinwiddie had 20.
Dallas also received a solid outing from forward Josh Green, who contributed 16 points in his fourth game since returning from a 20-game absence with a right elbow sprain. Dorian Finney-Smith added 12 points.
Dinwiddie didn't hesitate to share his frustration after the loss to the Wizards, who entered the contest six games under .500.
"We shouldn't be in a game like that with them," Dinwiddie said. "We should be able to stop them enough to where our 126 points beats their 125 or less. Like, that's really all it comes down to. I mean, we just got to be better in that respect. They're not playing for nothing, for real. You know what I mean?
"They're just coming out here firing. Like, they've got people coming off the bench just firing because at the end of the day, for them, it's a showcase. They're over there trying to get paid, not trying to play winning basketball. For a team that has real aspirations and has an MVP, went to the conference finals last year, we have to be better to a man."
Dallas eliminated the Suns from last season's playoffs, defeating the favored Suns in seven games in the Western Conference semifinals.
The Mavericks have split two meetings this season against Phoenix, which is concluding a five-game homestand. The Suns have won six straight regular-season home games over Dallas, with their last loss coming on Nov. 29, 2019.
Dallas clinched the playoff series last season with a 123-90 rout on Phoenix's home floor.
Suns center Deandre Ayton is probable after he missed the last three games due to a non-COVID illness, creating more playing time for Bismack Biyombo.
The 11-year pro drew praise from coach Monty Williams after recording six points, nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists in the win over Charlotte.
"The intensity that he plays with, it gives everybody energy," Williams said. "He's going after shots, he's going after loose balls -- he's 6-8 and he's down there playing against guys that are 6-11, seven feet tall and you can't tell."
--Field Level Media