The Dallas Mavericks also won Game 4 of the conference semifinals, tying their streak against the Phoenix Suns. Again, the Mavs Defense Phoenix is seen to be in trouble – and Luka Doncic certainly has some help. Game preview.
1. The Mavericks defense is real
After the second victory in a row, we can probably no longer speak of slippage: Dallas has found a way to thwart the rhythm of the Suns. After reaching at least 50% from the field for nine straight playoff games, they fell short of that level for the second time (46%) and had their second-lowest score in the playoffs (after Game 3).
Phoenix had its share of it, but the Mavs again defended it firmly as a team. A lot of pressure was put on the ball carrier, Reggie Bullock in particular once again playing a major role in the Suns often being slow to get on offense (or cross the halfway line).
Especially in the minutes with Maxi Kleber as the only big, the Mavs also implemented it very consistently that the stars of Phoenix (for long stretches there was only one: Devin Booker) were flashed and mostly felt compelled to take the ball out of their hands admit.
As a result, it was up to the weaker offensive players to make decisions. Jae Crowder used some of the space, but Dallas could live with his 15 points, and for the most part the Mavs still managed to turn quickly, providing as little attacking surface as possible. The whole team was involved and Luka Doncic played a good game in that regard as well.
Booker still got 35 points, sure, but he had to work hard for most of them — and the Mavs could probably live with the pitch distribution. Phoenix was massively deficient at the three-point line and rarely sank throughout the game. The Suns almost slipped on the field on their best days, but the Mavs basically dragged the series into quicksand at home.
The Suns have now lost 17 turnovers twice in a row. In the entire regular season, there’s only been four games where they’ve had more – turnovers actually aren’t their thing at all. In this game, the best team of the season, so smart, shot themselves in the foot again and again.
2. Luka Doncic learned from Chris Paul
We mentioned Doncic’s good defence: his biggest contribution was probably the offensive fouls he made. The same was true for Jalen Brunson. The Mavs sold every touch, falling, framing Booker for three offensive fouls and two for an increasingly desperate Chris Paul.
This may sound critical, in fact the flop (both sides) was exhausting to watch – but it worked and was (unfortunately) justified in that regard. And it was ironic that the “victim” was Paul of all people, who probably faked more calls in his career than any other current NBA player.
“We’re taught that by one of the opposite side’s greatest point guards of all time. It’s pretty cool,” Mavs coach Jason Kidd said after the game of the fouls at key times. , knowing full well that the performance of the referees would continue after this game will again be a big topic.
In Game 3, Doncic himself repeatedly indicated with a gesture towards the audience that the referees had been bought – in this game he used them to his advantage. Like just before the end of the second quarterstruggling for a rebound when he made contact with Paul and fell like…Paul.
“I learned about this flop thanks to you,” Doncic said immediately after at the free-throw line at CP3. In this game, the Slovenian let the maestro taste his own medicine. Paul conceded a few unfortunate calls, but he also took unnecessary risks and failed to adapt his game to the picky line of the referees.
3. The Suns don’t play Suns-y
Back to the Suns offense. In fact, this team is renowned for methodically looking for gaps and finding them. The Suns expose their weaknesses, they exploit the gaps, they play calculated and as a team. They didn’t do any of that in Game 4, at least not consistently.
Other than losing the ball, they often lacked the concrete plan and movement that makes them so strong. The permanent incompatibility of the name of Deandre Ayton hardly played a role anymore – in fact, it should not be excused, especially considering the limited availability of Paul.
Dallas let Dwight Powell play 10 minutes in that game, otherwise the Mavs only acted with Kleber as the Big Man, who was a big help on the wing. They were small lineups — the ones Ayton can really punish, as last year’s series against the Clippers showed.
However, Ayton was rarely featured, with hardly any games played to turn his physical dominance into an advantage. Even after moving on to smaller opponents, he either didn’t win the ball back or acted too hesitantly when he got it. He was almost a follower instead, grabbing 6 offensive rebounds but giving the Mavs no reason to stray from their small lineups.
Ayton is actually the kind of big man who can do just that – he doesn’t just need to be a rest, he has post moves, a really good hook shot, he can earn points. In fact, this game would have been a great time to show it off.