The Phoenix Suns looked a lot like the No. 1 seed overall as they did a relatively easy job of the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, clinching a 121-114 win in Game 1 of their second-round series. . Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Phoenix.
Just 14 seconds into the game, Chris Paul hit a mid-range jumper to give the Suns a lead they would never give up. It took them less than five minutes to push their lead into double digits, and that’s where it will stay for most of the game. The Mavericks stayed competitive throughout and used a run late in the fourth quarter to make the final score respectable, but it never looked like they would actually win.
Deandre Ayton was terrific against the Mavericks’ small frontcourt, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds on 12 of 19 from the field, while Devin Booker had 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Cameron Johnson added 17 points off the bench as the Suns shot more than 50% from the field for the game.
Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavericks, just missing a triple-double with 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He scored or assisted on 23 of the Mavericks’ 40 field goals. It was his sixth career 40-point playoff game.
Here are some key points of the game:
1. Suns go wire-to-wire with machine-like efficiency
On the first three possessions of the game, the Suns got a midrange jumper from Chris Paul, a steal and slam from Mikal Bridges and a layup from Devin Booker. A few minutes later, Jae Crowder hit a 3-pointer on a pick-and-pop and all of a sudden it was 9-0.
The Suns would hold that lead for the rest of the game. Although their defense is often praised, and for good reason, it was their machine-like efficiency on the attacking side that proved to be the difference in this one. There were a few stretches where the Mavericks got scorching from 3-point field and Luka Doncic started to leave, but none of that mattered as the Suns got all they got. wanted on the offensive side.
It was a classic Suns performance: 50.5 percent from the field; 39.3 percent from 3-point field; no one with more than 25 points but seven different players with at least nine points; only nine turnovers as a team. The Suns obviously have a bunch of great players, but they’re not an all-time great team to top you. On the contrary, they stick to their system, play in their roles and don’t let go.
2. Ayton Makes Mavericks Pay
It took Deandre Ayton more than four minutes to get his first basket – a layup and one on a feed from Devin Booker in the pick-and-roll – but once he got on the board, he didn’t. could not be stopped. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds for 12 of 20 from the field in one of his best postseason performances.
Since trading Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks have leaned into an extreme small-ball approach. So they’re very hard to guard, but they also give up a lot of size at the other end and Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber are at a huge disadvantage against centers like Ayton who can actually score the ball.
Ayton had three dunks and was 9 of 15 in the paint. Even when he didn’t get the best position or slightly mishandled a pass, he could just get up and shoot the smaller Mavericks defenders. Judging by Game 1, Ayton is going to be a huge problem in this series, and it doesn’t look like the Mavericks have many options to slow him down.
3. Doncic’s brilliance is not enough
A calf strain kept Luka Doncic out of the first three games of the playoffs, and even now he doesn’t appear to be 100%. But even a hobbled Doncic is better than most players in the league, as he proved once again with a terrific performance in Game 1.
Doncic was the only one who could do anything early on as he scored 14 of the Mavericks’ 25 points in the first quarter. Despite his blistering start, they trailed by 10 points at the first break. This turned out to be the theme of the game, as the Slovenian’s solo act failed.
He finished with 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists of 15 of 30 from the field in over 44 minutes, recording his sixth career 40-point playoff game. No one else in NBA history has more games like this before they turn 24. He scored or assisted on 23 of the Mavericks’ 37 field goals (62.1%) while on the ground.
Even acknowledging that Doncic got a bunch of points towards the end of the game on a failed comeback attempt, it’s probably not a good sign that he almost had a 40-point triple-double and that the Mavericks were easily outplayed. Either he’ll have to put up four superhuman performances or someone else on the Mavs will have to step in for them to win this series.