The Dallas Mavericks fell 114-121 to the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the Western Conference semi-finals match-up featuring the first seed versus the fourth seed. The score looks somewhat competitive, but the truth is that the Mavericks were knocked out of this one early. They had a few runs to make things interesting, but Phoenix always found a way to respond. Here are three keys for Game Two that Dallas must focus on to steal a win on the road.
Dallas Mavericks: Keys to Game Two vs. Phoenix Suns
1. Better Play from the Supporting Guards
Jalen Brunson was terrific in the first round series versus Utah. He came into this series looking like a legitimate number two option, but failed to deliver in game one. Brunson finished with 13 points, four rebounds, and three assists. His 13 points also came on 6/16 shooting and just one free throw. In total, his plus/minus was -7. He got off to a poor start with foul trouble and never found his groove. This can’t continue to be the case, or else the Mavericks have no shot.
The same goes for Spencer Dinwiddie. He finished the game with eight points, three rebounds, and four assists. He shot 3/8 from the field and never got to the free-throw line. Dinwiddie actually finished with a positive plus/minus (+2), but he didn’t do nearly enough to keep things competitive.
Luka Doncic put in a herculean effort, scoring 45 points to go along with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Doncic also did this on 15/30 shooting. It’s clear that Doncic will continue to get what he wants, no matter what defense is in front of him, but the supporting guards need to help.
2. Defense, Defense, Defense
Dallas was a terrific defensive team throughout the regular season and continued that in round one versus the Jazz. This wasn’t the case versus Phoenix, however, as the Suns finished the first half with 69 points and didn’t do much worse in the second half.
Head coach Jason Kidd preaches defense, but a lot of it is restricting three-point attempts and shots at the rim. That isn’t an issue for Phoenix, as they love operating from the midrange. In addition, Deandre Ayton can get what he wants at the rim versus the Mavericks’ big men.
The scheme needs to be altered. In addition, players like Reggie Bullock need to avoid foul trouble. Bullock is one of the best perimeter defenders on the team, so they can’t afford to have him sitting.
Phoenix was hitting everything last night, eventually, their percentages will come back down to Earth. With that being said, it’s virtually impossible to stop the Suns’ attack. To win Game Two, the Mavericks will have to slow them down and keep the Suns’ shooting percentages at a more realistic rate.
3. The Dallas Mavericks Need to Keep Hitting Threes
Dallas loves their threes, and it was a major reason why they were able to beat the Jazz. In Game One, the team made 16 threes on 39 attempts, shooting at a 41 percent rate. These are great numbers, but also a tad inflated due to Maxi Kleber getting hot in the first half.
It’s hard to find clean looks from deep against Phoenix. Their entire defensive scheme revolves around limiting these shots. With that being said, Dallas is full of top-tier shooters so they have to keep drawing up plays to find their man.
Doncic will continue to drain step-back threes here and there, but players like Bullock, Kleber, Dinwiddie, and Dorian Finney-Smith have to keep finding open looks as this will keep the Dallas offense flowing.
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