The Mavericks and Suns will play a decisive seventh game. The Mavericks, led by Luka Doncic, won Game 6 of their second-round series on Thursday night, cruising to an easy 113-86 victory at home. After establishing a 15-point lead into halftime, Dallas continued to pull away for the blowout victory, aided by their 16 3-pointers.
Doncic scored 33 points, grabbed 11 boards, and dished out eight assists to finish with a triple-double. They scored 37 points as a team thanks to the efforts of Reggie Bullock and Jalen Brunson of the Mavs.
Coming off a 30-point win in Game 5, the Suns laboured on the road once again. Chris Paul only scored 13 points on 7 shots from the field. Even though Devin Booker had 19 points, he shot 0-for-4 from deep.
On Sunday, Phoenix will host Game 7. Phoenix, the series’s defending champions, will look to extend their home court advantage and go to the Western Conference finals for the second year running. For their part, the Mavericks haven’t reached the conference finals since 2011. The key points from Game 6 are as follows.
Not Saving his Best for Last
The Undertaker gifs can start rolling, ladies and gents, because Luka Doncic is not going away. The superstar is only in his fourth season, but he has already compiled one of the best postseason records in NBA history.
Currently, he has appeared in 22 postseason games, 13 of which he has scored 30 or more points. But when he’s up against the proverbial proverbial brick wall? When that happens, Doncic is at his best.
It was Doncic’s third postseason elimination game, since the Mavericks have made the playoffs three times during his career. He was unsuccessful in his first two attempts, but only barely.
The 2020 season saw Doncic score 38 points in the Mavericks’ Game 6 loss to the Clippers, and the previous year he scored 46 points in a Game 7 loss. Doncic’s 33-point performance in a must-win game brings his average in such contests to an astounding 39 points. At “only” 33.5 points per game, LeBron James and Alex Groza are tied for second.
Doncic faced the two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard in his first two elimination games. Tonight’s occurred at the expense of Mikal Bridges, the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.
I wish I could tell you that Doncic’s success in must-win situations is due to some sort of strategic tweak or nuance in his game… , but I haven’t been able to find any evidence of it. He’s so ridiculously talented that when he stops worrying about conserving energy, not even the best NBA defences can stop him. No one can stop him if Leonard and Bridges can’t. This will likely continue for a very long time, perhaps even decades.
It’s a Marvel of Defence
The Suns excel in a number of different areas, but if you had to pick two, you may say shooting and ball management. Chris Paul teams are notoriously ball-protective, and the Suns were a top-tier shooting team by nearly every metric. Usually, the secret to defeating them is to interfere with one of those two characteristics. The Mavericks managed to sabotage both to an outrageous degree.
Only 18 three-pointers were taken by the Suns in Game 6. Equal second-fewest for the Monty Williams era. Meanwhile, the Suns turned the ball over 22 times. In the Monty Williams era, that ties for third-most. Two potential turning points in a single game. Fairness, yet, the Suns do not solely rely on 3-pointers like many other teams. The greatest midrange shooting team in the NBA, they still had opportunities to shoot in this game despite Dallas’s stifling defence.
But at some point, math has to be used. Due to Dallas’s turnovers, Phoenix was unable to take as many shots, and of those that were allowed, the best were taken away. In the Celtics-Bucks series, Milwaukee has given up countless 3-point tries in order to better protect the basket, but there was no such huge sacrifice here.
A far cry from their season average of 49.8, the Suns scored just 44 points in the paint in Game 6.
The defence played by Dallas was excellent. Where it matters most, defensively, they were outstanding. This led to a major explosion.
Readying the Field for Game 7
As a fourth-year player, LeBron James upset a top seeded team that had been to the NBA Finals before. While Doncic is still a few rounds away, the similarities are striking. Like the Pistons in 2007, the Suns were considered to be prohibitive favourites to take the series.
With Doncic leading the way, the Mavericks have a legitimate shot at upsetting a club that finished the regular season with 12 more wins than they did, and with the Warriors struggling against an ailing Memphis squad, Dallas has a real shot at making it to the NBA Finals.
Doncic’s brilliance is not dependent on making the Finals in his fourth year. Everyone anticipates that he will succeed on multiple occasions. But he is evaluated on a scale that is unique among players and even among All-Stars.
We may be talking about a kid who becomes one of the NBA’s all-time greats. Players of that calibre routinely confound our highest hopes. In his fourth year, no one gave LeBron a chance to reach the NBA Finals. As amazing as Doncic is, he is not quite as good as LeBron… yet. Such achievements will help him greatly in his quest to challenge for that kind of legacy.
But if Doncic needs another year or two, no one will really care. And for Phoenix, the stakes are much higher right now. CP3 has 37 years on the planet. Even while this isn’t inevitably his final hurrah, he’s getting close to the finish line. Over his last four games, he’s averaged 9.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 turnovers.
There aren’t many opportunities like this one, and he could be hurt or old. Without a championship to his name, Paul is well aware of this. When it comes to the playoffs, he is playing at home and has a significant edge. Nothing says that will hold true for the upcoming season. Now is his greatest shot at a championship.
In addition, Phoenix drafted DeAndre Ayton in 2018 rather than Doncic. He went into last offseason trying to get a max contract extension and now he’s set to become a restricted free agent. When the Suns had a 64–game winning streak, he tried everything he could to get a new deal. He maintained the defensive progress he made in last year’s Finals run and became much more at ease scoring on smaller lines.
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Ayton may have been the player Phoenix should have picked, but Dallas has stifled him in that aspect. Even if it isn’t Ayton’s fault, the loss of that guy would haunt the Suns forever.
Ayton may have one last chance to prove he deserves to be treated as a cornerstone in Phoenix in Game 7, despite the fact that it is extremely likely that any restricted free agent will remain in his current role.
Not the Finals, obviously. As of right now, there isn’t a title at stake. It’s hard to imagine a Game 7 in the second round with higher current and historical implications. Here, more than just a season is at stake for both teams.