The first-seed Phoenix Suns take on the fourth-seed Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the Western Conference NBA playoffs in a series that promises both excitement and drama. Phoenix, fresh off a stellar season, was victorious in six games over the New Orleans Pelicans. Many predicted a sweep in that series, but New Orleans kept it competitive.
Dallas, on the other hand, defeated the five-seed Utah Jazz in six as well. The Mavericks dealt with some injury concerns, as did the Suns, but overall looked like the far better team versus a more experienced squad in Utah.
NBA Playoffs Preview: Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks
Phoenix lost Devin Booker at the end of game two, which allowed the Pelicans to make a small comeback in the series. Booker returned in game six, in the Suns’ close-out victory, although didn’t look like his normal self. This wasn’t detrimental to Phoenix, as Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton looked unstoppable at times. New Orleans is a pesky young team who put up a fight, but ultimately Phoenix’s playoff experience reigned supreme.
The Mavericks actually won two out of the three games that star player Luka Doncic missed versus Utah. Much has been said about Dallas being overly-reliant on Doncic, which is true to an extent, although the team showed they’re not a bust without him. Jalen Brunson is solidifying his status as the Mavericks’ number two option. After returning from injury, Doncic looked stellar. Dallas also kept Utah’s two stars at bay, which bodes well for them coming into this series.
Ayton is a beast in Phoenix’s frontcourt. He’s very solid on both ends of the floor, and his offensive game is as polished as ever. He’s the biggest x-factor in this series. Dallas struggled with offensive rebounds to Rudy Gobert, and Ayton can do much of the same. In addition, Ayton’s offensive game will be a major factor as the Mavericks’ did not have to worry about that with Gobert.
Rounding out Phoenix’s frontcourt are Jae Crowder and Mikal Bridges. Crowder is a leader, a great defender, and a good shooter. He’ll be rotated defensively and will definitely hit a number of key shots. Bridges may draw the duties of defending Doncic. If anyone is up for this job, it would be him. His offensive game is also quite good and expanding. Cameron Johnson and JaVale McGee are great depth options.
Powell is bound to struggle in this series, as he typically does versus Ayton. He’ll need to be a factor in the pick-and-roll game offensively or risk being benched. Finney-Smith and Bullock are somewhat in the same mold as Crowder and Bridges as they’ll be tasked with playing elite defense, three-point shooting, and hustle play. Expect plenty of Maxi Kleber minutes in this series as well. The German big man performed admirably versus the Jazz. With that being said, the Mavericks do not have a single player who can truly defend Ayton.
Advantage: Phoenix Suns.
The Suns’ well-known backcourt features Paul and Booker as starters. Many can argue that this is the best backcourt in the entire league. Paul can do it all and is as experienced as anyone. He’s also hungry for his first ring. Booker, on the other hand, is an elite scorer and improved defender. Dallas will struggle to maintain the two, as does every other team. The Suns can also throw out Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet, two solid players, off the bench.
The Mavericks’ backcourt features Doncic and Brunson. Doncic is a superstar and looks to be the best player in this series. He’ll garner the most defensive attention, but will still likely average close to 30 points per game. He can’t be stopped, but Phoenix can hope to slow him down a bit. Brunson is emerging as an unheralded star. He carved up Utah’s perimeter defense, although that of the Suns is much better. His drives won’t come easy versus Phoenix, so keep an eye out on how Brunson switches up his game.
Spencer Dinwiddie comes off the bench for Dallas and is a superior option to both Payne and Shamet. The difference, however, is that Phoenix has two good options while Dallas has one. The Mavericks’ other options are Josh Green and Trey Burke as Tim Hardaway Jr remains sidelined with injury.
Advantage: Phoenix Suns (although very close).
Coaching and Intangibles
Monty Williams features as the Suns’ head coach. He’s done an excellent job in both of the last two seasons and has earned his place amongst the top NBA coaches. He rarely ever makes a mistake with this Phoenix squad and has an arsenal of firepower both offensively and defensively to tinker with.
Jason Kidd, however, has also done a spectacular job with Dallas in year one. The defense is much improved, the team doesn’t rely too heavily on Doncic like in the past, and they finally made it out of the first round for the first time since 2011. Kidd is working wonders with this team and is a second-half adjustment magician.
Phoenix definitely has the experience advantage. Paul and Crowder are two decorated veterans. This team, and exact same starting lineup, made the Finals just last season. Dallas, as previously mentioned, hadn’t won a first-round series for over a decade.
Advantage: Phoenix Suns.
Final Prediction: Phoenix Suns in six.
This will certainly be a great series. There are elite players on both sides, and both teams are very strong on all ends of the floor.
Doncic will single-handedly earn some wins for the Mavericks, but ultimately Phoenix’s experience and depth will prove to be too much for Dallas.
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