A seven-point win in favor of Phoenix really doesn’t tell the true story of Game 1 of this Western Conference Semifinals series between the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks.
Down to 21 points at one point and 17 points early in the fourth quarter, the Suns pretty much stopped playing aggressively the last 12 minutes of that game, allowing Dallas to “come back” to this game.
From the start, the Suns outplayed the Mavericks at both ends of the field and they never trailed once. Devin Booker looked pretty normal considering he suffered a hamstring injury in his team’s previous playoff series and overall the Suns really didn’t struggle Monday night.
On the other side of things, Dallas really struggled to get things going against Phoenix’s solid defense. Luka Doncic scored a game-high 45 points, but no one else really backed the Mavericks, casting doubt on their ability to struggle in this series.
Truly, nothing went wrong for the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of this series and while early games can sometimes be “crazy gold,” the Suns are not fooled.
This team won a franchise-record 64 games during the regular season and entered the playoffs as a favorite to win the NBA Finals. Dallas is going to have their hands full for the rest of this series and they’re going to have to make some major adjustments to their style of play if they want to make this series competitive.
Here’s what Game 1 between the Mavericks and Suns taught us.
Luka Doncic against all Phoenix
Luka Doncic is an incredible, sensational, generational talent, make no mistake.
Scoring 45 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and providing 8 assists against the Phoenix Suns was hugely impressive, but it’s hard to look past the fact that Doncic and the Mavs are a one-man team right now.
Compared to the Suns and all the talent they have on their roster, the Mavericks just don’t have the firepower to take on Phoenix in a seven-game series, which is why defense will be the only way Dallas can potentially keep things close.
It’s unclear how they defend the Suns and there may be no stopping them in this series, but Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton combined for 67 points in Game 1. Cam Johnson added 17 points off the bench, Mikal Bridges had 13 points and Jae Crowder had 11 points for Phoenix.
Against the best team in the league, that can’t happen if you’re the Mavericks, especially if your offense is going to be dormant.
Outside of Doncic, the Mavs shot 45.5% from the floor, which isn’t great, but they were never able to get to the offensive spots they wanted and it looked like their mid-range game had been completely swept away by the Suns.
Jalen Brunson struggled to get started and if Maxi Kleber hadn’t knocked off the bench five times, this game would have looked more like a blowout than it actually was!
Slowing down the pace of play and getting the shots they want in attack is going to be critical, especially since it’s very clear that Luka Doncic can’t carry his team in this series.
He may have single-handedly beaten the Utah Jazz, but Jalen Brunson stepped up in that previous playoff series and gave the Mavericks a much-needed secondary score.
Whether it’s Brunson or someone else, the Mavericks need a No. 2 scorer to get past Doncic just to struggle in this series against the Suns.
Playoff Ayton is a beast
We all know what Chris Paul and Devin Booker can do on the pitch, but Deandre Ayton has been a question mark at times this season. Some ankle issues bothered him and forced him to miss time during the regular season, but now back in the playoffs and fully healthy, Ayton is proving to be the beast we remember him from during Phoenix’s run to the NBA Finals last year.
In their first-round series against New Orleans, Ayton averaged 20.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and shot 70 percent from the floor. In Game 1 against the Mavericks on Monday night, the former No. 1 overall pick scored 25 points on 12-20 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds.
One of the Mavericks’ biggest weaknesses as a team is in their frontcourt, as they really don’t have passionate rim protectors or big physical men who can keep up with Ayton’s production.
The Mavs lineup of Doncic, Dinwiddie, Brunson, Bullock and Finney-Smith in central position seemed to give Dallas a bit of a shock in this game, but in doing so they gave up a ton of size inside, allowing Deandre Ayton to do what he wants.
Being the Suns’ “third option” at times, Ayton has transcended himself to become a top center in this league who can affect the game in more ways than one, especially as he is a very effective scorer.
How the Mavericks plan to deal with him could very well determine whether this streak ends quickly in favor of Phoenix.
Phoenix has the advantage of rebounding
Last series, the New Orleans Pelicans did a great job attacking the Suns on the offensive and defensive glass, passing them in almost every game.
In this series however for Phoenix against the Dallas Mavericks, it is the Suns who now have the advantage in rebounding simply because the Mavericks lack size.
Phoenix outshot Dallas 51-36 in Game 1 and it’s a trend that will likely continue simply because the Mavs lack size inside.
We know Luka Doncic is going to do Luka Doncic things and flirt with a triple-double almost every game, but Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie can’t be counted on to be top rebounders and Dwight Powell has had a lot of struggled against the Suns at both ends of the field in that game, which saw him play just 16 minutes at center.
Going small gives the Mavs an edge on offense on offense and spreading out the Suns defense, but the size they’re giving up is far too much to handle, especially since we’ve already mentioned how Deandre Ayton got by in the paint. .
The Suns’ rebounding advantage in this series is what makes them a big favorite every game and is a big reason why they could easily take the series lead 2-0 to Dallas.
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