In a tense seven-game series, the fourth-seed Dallas Mavericks ousted the first-seed Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semi-finals. It was tense until game seven, at least, where the Mavericks showed clear dominance. Luka Doncic was firing on all cylinders and received plenty of help from vital teammates such as Jalen Brunson. Dallas advances to the Western Conference Finals to take on the Golden State Warriors while the Suns will be faced with questions to answer this offseason.
Going into the series, there was plenty of talk about the Suns having the better all-around team while the Mavericks had the best player in Doncic. Having the best player, however, proved to be the main difference.
Doncic averaged 40 points per game in the first two games of the series, both of which happened to be losses for the Mavericks. The role players weren’t stepping up for Dallas. This, of course, all changed.
In the next two home games, two wins for Dallas, Doncic averaged 26 points per game. His teammates were getting more involved, largely due to Doncic, as he recorded 20 assists. He can score at will or facilitate, making him an absolute nightmare for any defense.
Game five ended up in a 30-point loss for Dallas. Doncic recorded 28 points. Game six was a triumphant victory for Dallas, and Doncic scored 33 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and recording eight assists.
Finally, in a game seven blowout, Doncic scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in three-quarters of play.
A major factor for the Mavericks’ victory was a struggling Chris Paul. Reggie Bullock was locked onto Paul all series long, but at times Dorian Finney-Smith and Frank Ntilikina rotated onto him. Paul feasted on Josh Green to start the series, so Mavericks coach Jason Kidd‘s adjustment of using Ntilikina instead paid off in a major way.
His struggles emerged in the first two Dallas home games. In game three, Paul scored 12 points but had seven turnovers. In game four, Paul fouled out and only played 23 minutes. He was targeted by the Mavericks both on offense and defense, and it threw his game off. Paul seemed to be passive and a complete shell of himself.
The main criticism for the Mavericks in the first two games was the lack of contributions from the role players. That all changed.
Brunson re-gained life in the first Dallas home stretch. Bullock and Finney-Smith played elite lockdown defense and consistently made crucial threes. Maxi Kleber continued to rain down threes after doing the same versus the Utah Jazz in the first round. Spencer Dinwiddie was quiet for much of the series but dropped 30 points in game seven.
Any questions regarding the depth of the Mavericks have now been answered.
The Mavericks travel to San Francisco to take on the Warriors starting Wednesday. They’ll have the tough task of slowing down Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, and the entire electric Warriors offense. This series promises to be an all-time classic.
Phoenix, on the other hand, will have questions to answer. Paul’s age looked to have caught up to him in this series, but is that really the case after a terrific series versus the New Orleans Pelicans? That remains to be seen.
The Suns may also look into upgrading their bench, as a few players became unplayable in this series.
Finally, the major question is that of Ayton’s future. He enters restricted free agency this summer, which means the Suns can match any offer he receives, but they’re already cash-strapped with deals they have for Paul, Booker, and Bridges. Ayton leaving would be a major blow for the future of the Suns.
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