Game 7 will be played between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns. On Thursday night, Luka Doncic and the Mavericks cruised to a 113-86 victory on their home court, tying the second-round series 3-3. Dallas never looked back after taking a 15-point lead into halftime, hitting 16 three-pointers in the rout.
Doncic led all scorers with 33 points, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists. Reggie Bullock and Jalen Brunson contributed 37 points each to the Mavericks’ cause.
The Suns, who were coming off a 30-point victory in Game 5, struggled on the road once more. Chris Paul scored 13 points on seven field goals. Devin Booker had 19 points but missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
Game 7 will take place on Sunday in Phoenix. The home team has won every game in the series, and Phoenix will try to keep that streak going by reaching the Western Conference finals for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, the Mavericks are attempting to reach their first conference finals since 2011. The following are the key takeaways from Game 6.
He saves his best for last.
Ladies and gentlemen, get your Undertaker gifs ready because Luka Doncic will not die. The fourth-year superstar is already amassing one of the most impressive playoff resumes in NBA history. He has now appeared in 22 postseason games, scoring 30 points or more in 13 of them. But what happens when his back is truly against the wall? Doncic truly shines at this point.
Doncic’s Mavericks have made the playoffs three times in his career, and this was his third elimination game. He didn’t win the first two, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Doncic scored 38 points in the Mavericks’ Game 6 loss to the Clippers in 2020, and he matched that total in a Game 7 loss a year later. With his 33 points, Doncic is averaging a whopping 39 points per game in elimination games. LeBron James and Alex Groza are tied for second place… despite averaging “only” 33.5 points per game.
Doncic’s first two elimination games were against two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. Tonight’s game against runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year Mikal Bridges. I wish I could tell you there was some strategic nuance here, some subtle shift in Doncic’s playing style that makes him especially lethal in season-saving games… But, as far as I know, there isn’t. He’s simply so good that when he no longer needs to pace himself, he’s completely and utterly unstoppable by even the best NBA defenses. Nobody can stop him if Leonard and Bridges can’t. We’re talking about decades of this.
A defensive masterwork
The Suns excel at a variety of things, but if you had to pick two, shooting and ball-control would be them. By almost any measure, the Suns were an elite shooting team, and Chris Paul teams are extremely ball-protective. The key to defeating them is usually to disrupt one of those two characteristics. To an absurd degree, the Mavericks were able to disrupt both.
In Game 6, the Suns attempted only 18 three-pointers. This is tied for the second-fewest in Monty Williams’ tenure. The Suns also had 22 turnovers. This is tied for the third-most in Monty Williams’ career. Two significant moments in the same game. To be fair, the Suns do not rely solely on three-pointers, as many other teams do. They’re the best mid-range shooting team in the NBA, and those shots were still available to them in this game (though they’ve been difficult to come by against a tenacious Dallas defence).
But, at some point, math enters the picture. With all of those turnovers, the Mavericks limited the total number of shots Phoenix could take, and among the shots they did give up, Dallas took away the most valuable ones a team can make. There was no grand sacrifice, either, as we’ve seen in the Celtics-Bucks series, where Milwaukee has given up endless 3-point attempts to protect the basket. In Game 6, the Suns scored 44 points in the paint, far below their regular-season average of 49.8. Dallas played excellent defense all over the field. They played excellent defense when it mattered the most. As a result, there was a blowout.
Getting ready for Game 7
In his fourth season, LeBron James defeated a No. 1 seed with Finals experience to make his debut on the NBA’s biggest stage. Doncic is still more than a round away, but the parallels are striking. The Suns, like the Pistons in 2007, were considered near-certainties to win this series. But, thanks to Doncic, the Mavericks have a legitimate chance to knock off a team that won 12 more games than they did in the regular season, and with Golden State looking less than flawless against an injured Grizzlies team, a legitimate path to the Finals is forming for Dallas.
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