Six matches and still no away win! The Mavs won their third and final home game of the series to tie the conference semifinal at 3-3 against the Suns. A game they dominated from start to finish, relying on a solid defense and a much better long-range address.
As is often the case in this series, the start of the match came down to a duel between “Mr. First Quarter-Timer”, Devin Booker, and Luka Doncic. The two men did the most damage approaching the circle with an efficiency happier for one than for the other: 8 points for the back of the Suns with four shots against 10 for the Slovenian but on… 11 shots . Despite the clumsiness of their playmaker, decided like Jalen Brunson to attack Chris Paul as much as possible, the Mavs turned a short header after twelve minutes (28-25).
Advance confirmed in the following period thanks to the success of several Texan shooters, Maxi Kleber and especially Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock, much more confident than in the previous match.
This address began to make the difference in the second part of this quarter ended badly by clumsy Suns on shots and ball in hand. Luka Doncic sent a “stepback” behind the arc against his favorite “matchup”, Deandre Ayton, and Dallas offered a more than ten point lead (49-39).
But Monty Williams’ men ended the first period so badly that they returned to the locker room 15 points behind (60-45). The serenity displayed on the face of the Suns coach contrasted with the rendering of his team on the floor. The latter continued to thwart a well-established Texan defense and the gap, rather than being reduced, continued to be widened by the locals.
The defense fell asleep twice, leaving the way open for Luka Doncic to go dunk without opposition. The attacking efforts of Deandre Ayton and the fight fought by Devin Booker will remain in vain: Phoenix, whose attack seems completely seized up, was more than 20 points behind at the start of the quarter (94-72) . A last period without much interest where a “garbage time” will end up closing the debates. The opportunity for Boban Marjanovic to score his first points in these playoffs.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– The awkwardness of the Suns ball in hand… We need look no further for the main statistical differential between the two teams. The Suns lost 22 balls, including 7 in the third quarter, where their opponents made only six possessions. The Arizona players owe this terrible ratio as much to careless mistakes, with sometimes risky transmissions, as to the defensive pressure from the other side. We think for example of an action where Frank Ntilikina, best interceptor of the match (4), put his body in opposition on a dribble Chris Paul who ended up losing control of the ball and sending it into touch. The Texans have largely benefited from these “turnovers” by registering 29 points behind.
– … and on throw-ins. Part of the game was played in the last moments of the first period. On a baseline throw-in, Luka Doncic found Reggie Bullock all alone cutting to the circle for two free runs. The explanation? A miscommunication on a screen in the back between Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges. Next possession, new throw-in from the Slovenian’s baseline. And a new defensive error from the Suns with three defenders occupied by two screen carriers, leaving Maxi Kleber all alone at 3-point. In the aftermath, Reggie Bullock cut off a pass from Chris Paul before penalizing behind the arc. This sudden 8-0 hurt the visitors a lot.
✅ Luka Doncic. More clumsiness at 3-points, as well as clumsiness at free throws, but new big production, and investment in defense especially in front of Devin Booker, for the Slovenian who wins his first career victory in a playoff game in the NBA. It was already his 13th game in the playoffs with 30 points or more.
✅ Reggie Bullock and Spencer Dinwiddie. The two men had signed a previous non-match with an 0/8 on aggregate. They largely reacted tonight with a superb 10/18 from a distance between them. Special mention to the first city who gave a lot in defense against Devin Booker, hence his time, the most important of the match. The second, who had not scored 15 points since the first round, recalled that he was not lacking in nerve. This long-distance skill seems to be the key to the Mavs’ success in these playoffs.
⛔ Chris Paul. New game that does not look much like the Suns point guard. He beefed up his stats sheet with two award-winning baskets in a last quarter that seemed already played. Before that, he was surprisingly passive in attack and, like Devin Booker, lost balls that didn’t look like him. Since he celebrated his 37th birthday, he is far from the level displayed upstream in these playoffs.
Game 7 : in Phoenix, Sunday, May 15.