|Mavericks meet Suns south of the border|
The NBA returns to Mexico City for the third consecutive year Thursday night when the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns duel for the second time in eight days.
The game will represent the 25th anniversary of NBA games in Mexico City, with the Mavericks having teamed with the Houston Rockets to play the first, a preseason game in 1992.
Since then, one game (San Antonio vs. Minnesota) was cancelled due to smoke in the Mexico City Arena, but the action picked up again on Nov. 12, 2014, when the Rockets returned to defeat the Timberwolves 113-103 in a regular-season game.
Last season, the Boston Celtics beat the Sacramento Kings 114-97 south of the border.
This year, the NBA has scheduled two games for Mexico City. The Suns will play "host" to them both, with the Spurs facing Phoenix on Saturday night.
"We're very much looking forward to this experience," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said at practice Wednesday. "The people are delightful; the arena is beautiful. I think this will be a close game."
One of the great unknowns is the effect of the altitude in the Mexican capital, which stands at 7,200 feet above sea level. Denver, at 5,200 feet, has the highest altitude on the regular NBA trail.
The Suns prevailed at sea level last Thursday thanks to better 3-point shooting. Phoenix connected on 7 of 17 (41.2 percent) in the 102-95 win, while Dallas struggled through a 9-for-29 night (31 percent).
The fact that the game was decided from beyond the arc was no surprise. The Mavericks (40.3 percent) and Suns (38.2 percent) rank last and second to last, respectively, in the league in defending the 3-pointer.
Suns center Tyson Chandler, whose international experience includes winning gold at the 2012 London Olympics, hopes the clubs can put on a show and maybe make some new fans.
"You never know who's watching; you never know what kid is going to have a spark in his brain that's going to push him to try and make it to our league one day," Chandler said Wednesday, according to the Arizona Republic. "I feel like that's why the Dirk (Nowitzkis) and Tony Parkers and Pau Gasols and Marc Gasols and all the other foreign players we have, I think it all came from the Barcelona trip back in the (1992) Olympics. A lot of kids watched that, and all of a sudden, years later we had a flood of Europeans.
"It's an opportunity for us to showcase."
The NBA will be showcasing the teams with the two worst records in the Western Conference, the 12-26 Suns and the 11-27 Mavericks. However, the records didn't stop the clubs from playing an exciting contest last week, a game that wasn't decided until Suns guard Eric Bledsoe scored seven of his 26 points in the final two minutes to help Phoenix gain an edge.
The Mavericks had won four in a row in the rivalry before last week's defeat.
A matchup with the Mavericks means a bit of a reunion for Suns coach Earl Watson, 37. In a 13-year NBA career that ended in 2014, Watson was teammates with three current Dallas players -- starting guards Deron Williams (one season with the Mavericks) and Wesley Matthews (one season with the Portland Trail Blazers), and backup Devin Harris (two seasons with the Mavericks).