In the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Dallas Mavericks couldn’t sustain their performance for 48 minutes in both competitions as the Phoenix Suns pulled away and clinched a 2-0 lead over the Mavs. Going into the American Airlines Arena for Game 3, it looked like a very rejuvenated and different Dallas team in this game as Luka Doncic and the Mavericks emerged victorious in Game 3.
Other fans and media personnel predicted an easy four or five games for Phoenix as they begin to prepare for their next opponent in the Western Finals. That was far from the Game 3 script as the Mavericks increased their defensive intensity and held Phoenix to under 100 points for the first time in this series. Heading into Game 4, those are three reasons for Dallas to lean on and possibly get the upper hand in this game.
Defense is better than common perception
In recent seasons, the Mavs have been known as an offensive machine. Coach Jason Kidd has changed that culture this season because everyone on the roster is more motivated to excel defensively. Ginv up 121 and 129 points in Games 1 and 2 was abysmal numbers for the Mavericks, but that dropped to 94 in Game 3.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker never found their groove throughout the contest as they both combined for an atrocious 12 turnovers in Game 3. Their impact was drowned out by the boisterous Dallas crowd as the turnovers left them have even affected to count a 12 and 18 abyssal counters, respectively. For a team that thrived on efficiency and making easy shots, limiting them to less than 50% shots from the field in Game 3 is an incredible number to build on for Game 4 on Sunday after- noon.
Luka Doncic will continue to receive the necessary support
It’s such a cliché for anyone to say that Doncic needs his teammates to increase their numbers, but the change in Game 3 proved the massive importance of his teammates. Of the three games, it was Doncic’s lowest output, but Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith all contributed with double-digit points.
Brunson was the missing link in the first two tilts, as fouls and hesitation were the two main reasons for his terrible performance. That wasn’t the case in Game 3 as Brunson was the leading scorer with 29 points on 10/21 shooting from the field. Without Tim Hardaway Jr. Bullock and Spencer Dinwiddie are sure to have other games they can blow up in and cause trouble for a heavily favored Phoenix team.
The Mavs will continue to have the advantage in the paint
In the previous series against the Utah Jazz, Dallas would pounce on the Jazz’s below-average perimeter defense and space the floor wide. This has led to a plethora of open looks which could easily be the main reason they win every game, but against the Suns they may have to adjust their priorities. Winning Game 3 was due to their 18+ points in Game 3 pain.
Phoenix has been stellar with their defensive plans all season, so the Mavericks adjusted their approach and won this battle in the paint. Even without a legitimate big man in their rotation, it’s the continuous jabs and attacks at the rim that put constant pressure on bigs like Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee. For the Mavericks to cause a huge upset, they need to continue to have that long-range bomb as a threat, but it’s their unheralded paint score that could be the differentiating factor.
The level of entertainment and intrigue was low in Games 1 and 2 as the Suns knew when to flip the switch and score their class. Dallas has proven they can compete with the best team in the NBA, and this game is proving to be competitive and fierce. Coach Monty Williams will certainly have his own adjustments for Game 3, but the Mavericks have the momentum heading into Sunday afternoon.
The Mavs need to win this crucial Game 4, but if they do finish it, it could be said that they might even have the advantage in the series. An upheaval is not far off the horizon, especially for a franchise that has Doncic on its hands.