There has been just one upset in a playoff series thus far and this came on Sunday night when the 4-seeded Dallas Mavericks went on the road and not only beat the best team in the league in the Phoenix Suns, but they annihilated them in front of their home faithful!
After picking up a 27-point victory in Game 6 of this series to force a Game 7 in Phoenix, the Mavericks beat the Suns by 33 points on Sunday to close out this series in seven games.
Now back in the Western Conference Finals for the first-time since 2011, the Dallas Mavericks are looking like a really strong contender because of the young, but experienced Luka Doncic.
What many tend to forget in regards to Doncic is that while he's just 23-years-old, he has been playing professional basketball against some of the world’s best talents for over a decade!
In seven games against the Suns, Doncic averaged 32.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and set some pretty impressive records along the way. Recording 315 total points, 101 total rebounds and 66 total assists, Luka Doncic became just the third player in NBA history to record 300p/100r/50a through his first 10 games of a postseason, joining Oscar Robertson (1963) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2022).
Luka Doncic was fantastic in this series, as was the rest of his team. Getting production from all over really helped elevate the Mavericks after the first two games of this series and now, they are four wins away from contending for a title.
As for Phoenix, winning a franchise record 64 games this season is no small feat, but the way their season ended is definitely disappointing.
After beating Dallas by a combined 27 points in the first two games of this series, Phoenix was outscored by 59 points in Games 3 through 7 and they lost four of their final five games. The Suns have a lot to figure out in the offseason and coming up short of their goals to get back to the NBA Finals this season, some big changes could be on the horizon for the league’s best team.
There is a lot to talk about in regards to this Mavericks-Suns Western Conference Semifinals series, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from these seven games.
Dallas Prides Themselves On Defensive-End Of Court
From the start of 2022 to now, the Dallas Mavericks have been one of the best defensive teams in the league and it is quite remarkable the turnaround this team made in such a short span mid-season.
On December 31, the Mavericks were 17-18 and they looked like a team that would be facing yet another early exit in the postseason, should they even make the postseason at that rate!
From that point on, Dallas went 35-12 to close out the regular season and they have only lost a total of 17 games, including the postseason, since January 1, 2022.
A top-tier defensive team in the league, the Mavericks have really dug their feet in on the defensive-end of the floor and head coach Jason Kidd deserves a ton of credit for the job he has done on that end of the floor with his group.
Constantly yelling out defensive matchups from the sideline and always making sure his team is playing with energy, Kidd was so engaged on the sideline in this series that it almost seemed like he was the sixth-man for the Mavericks on the floor!
Not many coaches in the NBA are as locked in and as animated as Kidd was in this series and it was not just him that was getting involved. The entire Mavericks’ bench was always up, clapping and making noise for their teammates on the defensive-end of the floor.
So many people are quick to claim that teams do not play defense in the NBA and that offense is the only thing that matters, but they obviously have not watched the NBA Playoffs then because there are so many great defensive teams year-after-year!
The Dallas Mavericks are one of those teams this season and heading into the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Dallas has to like their chances given the way the Warriors have been turning the ball over.
Spencer Dinwiddie Is Mavericks’ “X-Factor”
At the trade deadline this season, the Mavericks traded former All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards in a package for guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
This has ended up being one of the best trades made this season and while the 29-year-old guard struggled early on with the Wizards coming back from his ACL injury, Dinwiddie has emerged as arguably the third-best scoring weapon for the Mavericks as of late.
In this series against the Phoenix Suns, Dinwiddie averaged 11.4 points per game off-the-bench and the biggest impact he made was out on the perimeter, as he shot 16-31 (51.6%) from three-point range, including going 10-14 (71.4%) in Games 6 and 7 of this series.
Luka Doncic is not going to be able to beat the Golden State Warriors on his own, which is why this sudden emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie on the offensive-end of the floor is extremely important for the Mavericks.
He is the key to them finding long-term success in the playoffs and if he can stay hot from long-range in the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks will have a really strong chance at possibly reaching the NBA Finals.
Phoenix Has Some Internal Issues To Address In Offseason
The Suns were untouchable during the regular season, so what went wrong in the postseason because this loss does not look good for them and they barely escaped the New Orleans Pelicans in the first-round of the playoffs?
The thing about Phoenix that seems to be clear after their Western Conference Semifinals exit is that they were both physically and mentally fatigued entering the playoffs.
Winning 64 games during the regular season is a major accomplishment that stole a ton of energy from this team and put a lot of pressure on them entering the playoffs.
Against New Orleans, they were expected to win in five games, if not sweep the series, and the same was being said about this matchup against Dallas. Phoenix did not necessarily undermine their opponent’s, but they definitely did not look prepared and the body language of the Suns on the court made it look like that they thought they could just show up and win any series they played in.
The 2021-22 Phoenix Suns are and will go down as a terrific basketball team, but the playoffs are much different than the regular season and I think this is something Phoenix now understands after what has transpired the last two seasons.
They have gone from “the hunter” to “the hunted” in this league and in doing so, they must find a way to change their approach on the floor.
They can no longer go into games “care-free” and they really do need to game plan a little better for their opponents, especially in the postseason, because teams are going to begin dissecting them in film studies and come up with ways to neutralize Booker/Paul, much like what happened in this series against the Mavericks.
In the offseason, the Suns have a lot of work to do on the court with one another and their front-office will have their work cut out for them as well given that Deandre Ayton is a restricted free agent.
Related stories on NBA basketball
- What We Learned From Warriors-Grizzlies Western Conference Semifinals Series: The Golden State Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 110-96 on Friday night, winning this Western Conference Semifinals series in six games and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. CLICK HERE.
- What We Learned From Heat-76ers Eastern Conference Semifinals Series: The Miami Heat defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 on Thursday night, winning this Eastern Conference Semifinals series in six games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. CLICK HERE.