The Dallas Mavericks kept their season alive on Friday night with an impressive defensive performance against the Phoenix Suns in a 103-94 win in Game 3 at American Airlines Center.
Although a Game 4 was guaranteed no matter what happened in Game 3, falling into a 3-0 series hole is a essentially a death sentence, as no NBA team has ever come back from that. Dallas now has a chance to tie the series at 2-2 on Sunday afternoon and make this a best-of-three series heading back to Phoenix.
From the rocking home crowd, to Luka Doncic bodying up pretty much every Suns player in the post, to Jalen Brunson finally joining the party, this victory edition of Mavs Donuts has a little bit of everything. Dig in!
Donut 1: Nothing Like Some Home Cookin’
After winning the first two games of the series in front of a raucous Phoenix crowd, the Suns got to feel the opposite side of that on Friday night, as the AAC loud and rowdy from start to finish.
“Energy, man. I think that the energy was insane,” said Doncic. “This crowd gets it going, which is amazing the whole game. But the energy and the execution were better, (too).
"We trusted each other and that’s what we have to do every game.”
Donut 2: Birthday Turnovers For CP3
Chris Paul celebrated his 37th birthday on Friday, but instead of getting birthday cake, the Mavs gave him a healthy serving of turnovers instead.
“I think we did a great job tonight,” said Doncic when asked about the Mavs forcing Paul into seven turnovers. “We have Reggie [Bullock] and Doe Doe [Dorian Finney-Smith]. Those guys were incredible all year on the defensive end, and that showed today once again that they’re doing an amazing job. They are our leaders on defense. We go as they go on defense, and they have been amazing all year.”
Donut 3: Brunson Finally Joins The Party
After a brutal first two games, Brunson bounced back in a big way in Game 3 by leading the Mavs with 28 points on 10-21 shooting from the field. He was much more aggressive in this one, as he drove to the rim 26 times after only doing so a combined 23 times in Games 1 and 2.
“I think I kind of found myself playing with a little more of a hop in my step, and getting to spots quicker and making decisions faster,” said Brunson. “Decisions came to me just being aggressive, the team (gave) me confidence to go make plays and I just kept doing that.”
Donut 4: Mavs Playing Through Adversity
After receiving a handful of questionable calls throughout the night, the worst one came around the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Doncic was called for his fifth foul. It was a bang-bang play with Jae Crowder that probably could’ve been challenged, but the Mavs weathered the storm and came out victorious regardless.
Doncic, instead of saying something that might’ve gotten him a technical foul, simply expressed his feelings towards the officials by making a money gesture to the crowd with his hands.
Donut 5: Suns ‘Too Small’ For Luka
Although Doncic’s 3-point shot wasn’t falling, he was giving the Suns work in the paint in route to his 26 points. The Mavs’ bench had a message for Mikal Bridges after Doncic out-muscled him for a bucket.
Donut 6: Brunson On What Changed In Game 3
“Be able to push the pace a little bit. Like [Dorian Finney-Smith] said, we got into our stuff quicker,” said Brunson. “We just played together. I think our coaching staff did a great job of just, putting us in a position to succeed, and we were just able to execute.”
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Donut 7: Kidd On Brunson’s Breakthrough
"I just wanted him to be aggressive. We talked before the game: 'Just be yourself.' I thought this was the first time he was aggressive; he didn't wait and he wasn't surveying,” said Kidd.
“When the ball touches the paint good things happen for us. We make a lot of right basketball plays; (Jalen Brunson) did that for us tonight. Luka [Dončić] was great in the post, putting pressure on their defense and we're going to need that again on Sunday."
Donut 8: Suns’ Regression To The Mean
In Game 1, the Suns shot 50.5 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep. In Game 2, they raised their efficiency to an unreal 64.5 percent from the field and 52 percent on 3s. For context, the 64-win Suns averaged shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from deep during the regular season.
In Game 3, those numbers finally started regressing to the mean a little bit, as the Suns shot just 44.7 percent from the field. Whether it was due to the Mavs turning up their aggression on defense or similar the law of averages, Dallas hopes that trend continues into Game 4.
Donut 9: Kidd On Limiting Suns’ Possessions
“We were just trying to play at our pace; we wanted to exploit, we wanted to attack early in the shot clock. As we talked about in the first two games, we were getting shots up against the clock and deep into the clock,” said Kidd
“They are a really good defensive team, so we felt that we needed to be a little bit more aggressive early in that clock. But I guess we were playing slow. It felt like we were playing fast because we got a lot of shots, I thought, early in the clock, a lot of 3s we haven't gotten in the first two games."
Donut 10: Frank Ntilikina Making An Impact
Before Game 3, we talked about how the Mavs needed to take Dwight Powell out of the starting lineup given how the first two games went. Kidd didn’t make that move, but he did make his first real adjustment of the series.
Frank Ntilikina, who was out of the Mavs’ first-round series vs. the Jazz due to having a tonsillectomy, took Josh Green’s place in the rotation on Friday night. He only played 12 minutes and didn’t score any points, but his defense — especially on Devin Booker — provided the Mavs with a spark.
Donut 11: Finney-Smith On Limiting Booker
“(Just trying) to make it tough on him, he makes tough shots to trying to limit his 3s and try not to let him get so many off like last game,” said Finney-Smith.
“We knew he was coming that third quarter, so we also wanted to keep the energy on him. Like I said, we have had great team defense. Our bigs have been doing good coming off the picks and being up. They have been doing their job.”
Dallas held Booker to 18 points on 6-13 shooting.
Donut 12: The Final Word
"Yeah, it was great. I thought it was a great team win,” said coach Jason Kidd. “(Jalen Brunson), Spencer [Dinwiddie], Maxi [Kleber], Luka [Dončić], Reggie [Bullock], (Dorian Finney-Smith) – everyone joined the party, they helped out on both ends.
“And then Luka was great defensively, he participated, too. It puts us in a different position when that happens."