Mavericks vs. Playoff Preview Suns: Three keys to series as dominant Phoenix team takes on underdog Dallas team - New Style Motorsport

The Phoenix Suns were tested more than anyone expected in the first round of the playoffs against a struggling New Orleans Pelicans team. A hamstring strain for star guard Devin Booker certainly played a part in that series stretching to six games, but New Orleans deserves some credit for how competitive they made that matchup. A classic performance by Chris Paul in Game 6, as well as Deandre Ayton’s dominance throughout the series, helped the Suns reach the West semifinals, where they will meet the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

Although the Suns are the favorites against the Mavericks, as they should be as the No. 1 seed, it won’t be an easy task to beat a Dallas team that had a similar path to Phoenix to get here. A calf strain for superstar shooting guard Luka Doncic forced him to miss the first three games of Dallas’ matchup against the Utah Jazz, and while many expected the Jazz to beat the Mavericks, Dallas finished with a 2-1 lead without their Guard. Slovenian. When Doncic returned, he showed no lingering effects of calf strain, and coupled with a strong performance from Jalen Brunson, the two guards led Dallas to its first playoff series win since winning a championship in 2011.

Dallas has finally made it out of the first round of the playoffs, and its reward is facing a dominant Suns team that has very few weaknesses. But just because Phoenix is ​​a superior team doesn’t mean Dallas is going to turn around and disappear easily.

It’s going to be a battle between various stars like Doncic, Booker and Paul, so ahead of Game 1 on Monday, here’s everything you need to know about this Western Conference semifinal matchup.

(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (4) Dallas Mavericks

All Eastern Times

  • Game 1 (on PHX): Monday May 2 | 10:00 p.m. ET | TELEVISION: TNT
  • Game 2 (on PHX): Wednesday May 4 | 10:00 p.m. ET | TELEVISION: TNT
  • Game 3 (in DAL): Friday May 6 | 9:30 p.m. ET | TELEVISION: ESPN
  • Game 4 (in DAL): Sunday May 8 | 3:30 p.m. ET | TELEVISION: ESPN
  • Game 5* (on PHX): Tuesday May 10 | To be determined | TELEVISION: TNT
  • Game 6* (in DAL): Thursday May 12 | To be determined | TELEVISION: ESPN
  • Game 7* (on PHX): Sunday May 15 | To be determined | TELEVISION: Determined

1. Doncic vs elite defense

One thing that became abundantly clear in Dallas’ first-round matchup against Utah was that the Jazz had no one who could properly stop Doncic. In the three games he played after missing with a calf injury, the three-time All-Star averaged 29 points on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 36.7 percent from deep. The Jazz tried to throw several defenders at Doncic, most notably Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale, and none were able to prevent Doncic from getting to the spots he wanted and causing damage.

That’s likely to change against the Suns, as they have two more than capable defenders in Jae Crowder and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Mikal Bridges, who are sure to give Doncic a hard time. In previous meetings, Bridges has done a great job of disrupting Doncic’s offensive flow, and he can defend Doncic on the perimeter and has the size to handle his own when Doncic tries to set him up.

However, while Phoenix will try to keep Bridges on Doncic as much as possible, Dallas will also try to look for trades to put someone else in front of Doncic, like Paul or Booker. This is going to be the biggest key to the series, because if the Suns can find a way to shut Doncic down, then this series could be over quickly.

2. The size of Phoenix vs. dallas little ball

Another area where the Suns can win this series is up front, where they have a clear size advantage against the Mavericks. Ayton was a force in the first round against the Pelicans, averaging 20.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and shooting an astounding 70 percent from the field. He will have the benefit of facing a Mavericks team that has only two traditional centers in Dwight Powell and Boban Marjanovic, the latter of whom sees only minutes of garbage time. Powell will have his hands full protecting Ayton, who is much more productive offensively than Rudy Gobert in the first round. In addition to Ayton, the Suns also have better bottom-end depth with JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo, who are both aggressive rebounders and adequate rim protectors.

But while the Suns will try to overpower the Mavericks with their size, Dallas will try to spread the floor and force the Phoenix bigs to hunker down on the perimeter. This is where Maxi Kleber’s 3-pointers will be crucial for Dallas. In the first round, Kleber shot 51.6 percent from deep on more than five attempts per game. Ayton will be a more capable defender on the perimeter compared to what Gobert offered, but if Kleber turns on again from long range, he will force Ayton out of the paint, allowing Doncic and Brunson to get to the rim.

The Mavericks can also go even smaller, using Dorian Finney-Smith as a small-ball center, which they tried on a streak against the Jazz in the first round. Finney-Smith is the most consistent 3-point shooter, and if Ayton is forced to compromise with him on defense to keep him from knocking down 3-pointers in the corners, it will leave an open path to the rim. These adjustments will have a significant impact on the series, because both teams can force the other to play a style of basketball that they are not comfortable with.

3. Can Brunson replicate the success of the first round?

Brunson became the Mavericks’ breakout star in the first round, as he captained the Dallas ship in Doncic’s absence. He averaged 27.8 points against the Jazz and looked unstoppable in a more dominant role on the ball. If Doncic is controlled by Phoenix’s elite defensive tandem, Brunson will once again carry the Mavericks’ offensive load. He’s already shown he’s capable of exploding for 30-plus points while orchestrating the offense and limiting turnovers, but can he repeat that success against a tougher Suns opponent while returning to his secondary ball-handling role now that Doncic is completely healthy?

The Mavericks won’t need Brunson to put up 41 points like he did in Game 2 against the Jazz, but he’ll need to stay aggressive and look for his shot more often if Dallas wants to keep up with a qualifying Suns team. fourth in the playoffs in offensive rating (117.8). While Brunson made a living from midrange and around the basket against the Jazz, where he could do the most damage is beyond the arc. Brunson only averaged just over three deep shots during the regular season, but that number rose to more than five attempts per game in the playoffs, and he’s making them at an efficient 36 percent rate. If Brunson can maintain that volume and efficiency, he will be a boon to Dallas’ hopes of trying to upset the Suns.

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