The Dallas Mavericks really struggled defensively against the Phoenix Suns in Games 1 and 2 of this Western Conference Semifinals series. Not to mention, their offense was getting lost in the dust since Luka Doncic was the only key contributor in the two games down in Phoenix!
In Game 3 however, Dallas looked like a completely different team and it almost seemed like they shocked the Suns from the opening tip!
The Mavericks played with a ton of energy and did not back down for all 48 minutes of Friday night’s game, resulting in them taking a 103-94 victory to avoid falling down 0-3 in this series.
Luka Doncic continued his incredible play with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists, but the rest of his roster really came to play. Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber were all fantastic in this game and quite honestly, this may have been the best game the Mavs have played all year long.
As for the Suns, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong in this one!
This was the first playoff game this season in which the Suns did not have a 20-plus point scorer and the first-time since April 3 that Phoenix did not have a player with at least 20 points.
Monty Williams and the 64-win Suns are surely going to make the necessary adjustments heading into Game 4 on Sunday, but Friday’s game was definitely a wake-up call for them, quite possibly a loss that will elevate their play even more.
Dallas played a fantastic all-around game in their Game 3 victory and here are the three biggest things we learned from their win.
What Do You Know, Luka Actually Has Teammates
Through Games 1 and 2, Luka Doncic was averaging 40.0 points per game while Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie were only averaging 20.5 points per game. It is also worth mention that outside of Doncic, the Mavericks struggled to find consistency on offense in the first two games of this series.
On Friday night though, Jalen Brunson had 28 points, Reggie Bullock had 15 points, Dorian Finney-Smith had 14 points and Maxi Kleber had 14 points.
The supporting cast around Luka Doncic stepped up with 71 combined points in Game 3 and this proved to be a massive difference in favor of Dallas, especially since these four players shot 11-30 (36.7%) from deep.
The key questions being asked heading into this matchup in Dallas was whether or not someone else would step up for the Mavericks and it seemed like all of the role players around Doncic took this question to heart.
Every single player that needed to step up for the Mavericks stepped up in Game 3, but now, heading into Game 4, the questions being asked will revolve around whether or not they will be able to do it again.
Role players tend to play better at home and the good thing for Dallas is that they will host the Suns again on Sunday.
Physicality Is Phoenix’s Kryptonite
From the opening tip, the Mavericks played with a certain level of intensity that was not matched by the Suns at really any point in this game.
Phoenix would go on some scoring runs and ramp things up a little bit on their end of things to try and cut into Dallas’ lead, but the Mavs really controlled every aspect of this game from the first minute to the last.
It was very clear that the Mavericks wanted this game more than the Suns and they truly needed it more than them as well since they faced an 0-2 deficit. Phoenix was not ready for a fistfight in Game 3 after beating Dallas by double-digits in the first two games of this series and that was very apparent with their lackadaisical play on the offensive-end of the floor.
Chris Paul turned the ball over a total of 7 times, all of which came in the first-half of the game, marking the first-time he has ever turned the ball over six or more times in a half of a playoff game, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Maybe this was just the Suns being unprepared for this game and thinking they could go to Dallas and run all over the Mavericks like they did through the first two games of this series, but the physicality of the Mavericks really seemed to bother the Suns all night long, especially when Phoenix was not getting the foul calls they wanted.
Defense wins championships and both of these two teams are two of the best defensive teams in the entire NBA.
Adjustments are going to be made night-in and night-out and in this game on Friday night, Jason Kidd and Dallas made all of the correct adjustments both before and during the game. Whether or not they can make the correct adjustments after the game and heading in Game 4 on Sunday though is a key question.
The Mavericks Offense Is Efficient When They Attack The Rim
A lot of the Dallas Mavericks offensive sets this season have revolved around giving the ball to Luka Doncic and getting out of the way.
These isolation sets have resulted in some success, but in the playoffs, specifically against the Suns, Dallas’ offense has been very stagnant.
Luka can only do so much for this team and he alone is not going to be able to carry them in this series, this being very apparent after he scored a combined 80 points in Games 1 and 2 and Dallas still got outscored by a combined 27 points.
Getting others involved and moving the ball was essential for the Mavericks to do in Game 3 and they did just that. They were able to get more open looks, specifically from the three-point line, by moving the ball around and instead of standing around, Dallas looked to constantly attack the holes in Phoenix’s defense.
This left the Suns looking frazzled defensively and because of how fast they were having to play on defense, Phoenix was not able to save all their energy for the offensive-end of the floor.
The Suns ended up getting tired on defense because of all the adjustments and switches they had to make, giving the Mavericks the upper-hand in this game.
The Dallas Mavericks really are not that strong of an offensive team and everything flows through Luka Doncic, but by moving the ball and finding the gaps to attack in the Suns’ defense, the Mavs can give themselves a fighting chance in this series.
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