The Dallas Mavericks have no room for error when they host the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks must find a way to beat the Suns to even the series at 3-3 or the team will be eliminated from the postseason.
The bad news is the Mavericks are coming off a pitiful performance in a Game 5 loss. The Suns held Dallas to just nine assists on Tuesday, the first time since 2016 a team has been held to fewer than 10 assists in a playoff game.
The good news is the Mavs have won four-straight home playoff games since losing the opener of the Utah series in the first round. Bonus good news: Reggie Bullock appeared to suffer a leg injury on Tuesday and limped off the floor, but he is not listed on the injury report for Game 6.
FINAL: In what turned out to be the real 'Luka Special' on Thursday night, the Mavs blew out the Suns by the final score of 113-86 to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in Phoenix on Sunday. Doncic finished with 33 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals in 35 minutes of action.
TO THE FOURTH: Dallas is maintaining its lead over the Suns in large part due to Phoenix' strategy of playing Doncic tight on the perimeter - and Luka blowing by his defender.
The first dunk ...
And the second ...
He did it on back-to-back possessions in the third - dunking both times, and revving up his AAC audience.
It's Mavs 94, Suns with Doncic setting the pace (28 points) and with Dallas having recorded 12 steals (to none for the Suns) and Dallas shooting ... from 3.
HALFTIME: For at least a moment to start the second quarter, it looked like somebody beyond Luka Doncic might have to do even more, as Doncic exited the floor with a leg injury.
Doncic did return to the locker room shortly after the start of the second period (with Dallas up after one), hopefully to return; he's was riding a stationary bike, trying to work out what might be a thigh problem.
He worked it out.
Doncic was back on the floor midway through the second, and pushed Dallas to a 60-45 halftime lead. He's got 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, but also key has been the defense of Reggie Bullock and company on Devin Booker, who had eight points in the first quarter but none in the second.
Meanwhile, the other Suns star, Chris Paul, has just five points and two assists - and Bullock has helped on both ends with 13 points and five rebounds.
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FIRST QUARTER: It's Dallas 28, Suns 25, with a feisty Luka Doncic leading the way with 11 points.
The Suns' Devin Booker - no friends with Luka right about now - countered with eight points in the period, part of Phoenix shooting 56 percent from the floor.
Dallas' defense does already have four steals.
PREVIEW INFO: After an ugly Game 5 loss in Phoenix, a rivalry between young All-Stars Doncic and Devin Booker is heating up. The two players once again exchanged barbs, Booker with theatrics and Doncic with mumbled words as part of Tuesday’s Game 5 drama.
As Doncic walked to the visiting locker room with his teammates, Doncic sent a mumbled-but-pointed message back to the Suns.
"Everybody acts tough,'' Doncic said, fuming, "when they’re up.”
A chance to upset the defending Western Conference champion Suns, who produced the NBA’s best regular season record of 64-18, at home and then on the road? Luka Doncic might be facing the biggest challenge of his career... and opportunity to further cement his stardom.
LUKA MAGIC: Luka Doncic (32.5 ppg) owns the second-highest career scoring average in playoff history, just behind Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg). In this second round series against Phoenix, his scoring average has increased to 32 points per contest.
RECORDS: DALLAS MAVERICKS (2-3) at PHOENIX SUNS (3-2)
WHEN: Thursday, May 12, 2022 at 8:30 p.m. CT
LOCATION: American Airlines Center (Dallas, TX)
TV/RADIO: ESPN, BSSW, 97.1 The Eagle (KEGL)
DALLAS INJURY REPORT: Tim Hardaway Jr. (left foot surgery) is out.
ODDS: The Mavs are currently 2-point underdogs to the Suns.
NEXT: If Dallas forces a Game 7, it will be Sunday May 15 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.