The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Phoenix Suns 113-86 Thursday night in Dallas. The win sets up a pivotal Game 7 in Phoenix on Sunday. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 33 points, eight assists, and 11 rebounds. Deandre Ayton led the Suns with 21 points.
The game started off a bit sloppy, with the Mavericks shooting only 41% from the field in the first quarter. The Suns, meanwhile, shot 56%. It didn’t matter, though, because the Suns turned the ball over four times, and only shot 16 times. The Mavericks, on the other hand, put up 24 shots, 11 of them from deep. That helped them outscore Phoenix by three in the opening quarter, and they just piled on from there.
The Suns continued to turn the ball over in the second quarter, coughing it up for more times. The Mavericks found their shooting stroke at the same time, going 6-of-13 from behind the arc and shooting 56% from the field overall. The outscored the Suns by 12 in the quarter and took a 15 point lead into halftime.
Any thought that the Suns might stage a comeback in the second half were extinguished pretty quickly. Phoenix was able to make a short run early in the third quarter, but they continued turning the ball over. The Mavericks took full advantage, scoring almost every time they took the ball away. The Mavericks had outscored the Suns 21-2 on points off turnovers by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was much of the same, with the Suns never even going on a small run due to the continued turnovers. Phoenix gave the ball way another seven times in the fourth. Jason Kidd wasn’t taking any chances, however, and didn’t empty the bench until the game was almost over.
Here are four things to think about from the game:
Turnovers killed the Suns
The Suns gave the ball away at a staggering rate. They had 15 turnovers by the end of the third quarter, and at that point the game was pretty much out of reach. There was a strange combination of factors that led to so many turnovers. The Mavericks had active hands all night, squelching passing lanes. They also trapped Devin Booker often, and that seemed to just throw the Suns offense into a funk. The Suns also seemed to force feed Deandre Ayton in the post and that led to some bad passes.
Whatever the reason, it’s almost impossible to win if you turn the ball over at such a high rate. The Suns finished the game with 22 turnovers. It would take a terrible performance from your opponent to pull a win off in that situation, and the Mavericks didn’t oblige. They shot well and protected the ball all night.
The Mavericks won the math
3-point shooting isn’t how the Suns win games, but the Mavericks might have them rethinking that strategy. Dallas didn’t just outshoot Phoenix from deep, hitting 41% of their 3-pointers while the Suns hit 33%. They also shot almost more than double the amount of 3-pointers the Suns did.
It doesn’t take a math genius to know that three is more than two. So if the Mavericks are taking almost twice as many 3-pointers as the Suns, it doesn’t matter if Phoenix feasts on midrange shots or in the paint. But the Suns didn’t do that, either. Dallas just bludgeoned Phoenix with 3-pointers and then played solid defense on the midrange shots the Suns love to shoot. It’s something the Mavericks need to exploit again going into Game 7, because they’ll certainly be facing an uphill battle in Phoenix.
Spencer Dinwiddie reappeared
Dinwiddie didn’t have a huge game, but the Mavericks have a kiddie pool shallow rotation, so any contribution off the bench helps. Dinwiddie scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He’s not the X-factor for the Mavericks, but if he can play at the level he did in March, the Mavericks become a much more dangerous team.
Luka Doncic’s usage rate is off the charts, approaching 40%. Jalen Brunson’s usage is hovering around 30%. It would help immensely if Dinwiddie could take some of that playmaking burden off of their hands. He’s performed well in both Game 6’s this postseason. Maybe he’s got something special in the tank for Game 7.
Reggie Bullock has been incredible this postseason
Bullock was the second-leading scorer tonight, putting up 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-11 from deep. Bullock’s shooting has been key to this Mavericks playoff run. He’s hit at least three shots from behind the arc in eight of the Mavericks’ 12 postseason games. Bullock’s shooting stretches the floor, especially when he shares the court with Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. That group, along with Doncic and Brunson, stretches defenses thin.
But it’s not just Bullock’s shooting that’s important. He’s also been assigned to guard Chris Paul the last four games, and he’s shut the veteran guard down. Paul has scored in single digits in two of those four games, and only scored 12 in another. Bullock has been key in disrupting the Suns’ offense, and it’s started with picking Paul up at midcourt, then staying with him the rest of the way. It’s been a fun battle to watch, and he’ll certainly be at it again in Game 7.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.
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