The Phoenix Suns looked very much like the No. 1 seed as they did a relatively easy job with the Dallas Mavericks Monday night, holding out for a 121-114 win in Game One of the second-round series. Match 2 will take place on Wednesday night in Phoenix.
Just 14 seconds into the match, Chris Paul hit a mid-range jump to give the Suns a lead they’ll never give up. It took less than five minutes for them to be able to increase their advantage to double digits, which is where they will be for most of the game. The Mavericks have been competitive the whole time, and used the end of the last quarter of last year to make a respectable final score, but it never looked like they would actually win.
Deandre Ayton was outstanding against the Mavericks small front area, finishing 25 points and eight rebounds in 12 of 19 from the field, while Devin Booker scored 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Cameron Johnson added 17 points from the bench as the Suns hit more than 50 percent from the field for the match.
Luka Doncic led the way for the Mavericks, as he missed a hat-trick with 45 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. He has scored or assisted in 23 of the Mavericks’ 40 field goals. This was his sixth career game of 40 points.
Here are some key points from the game:
1. Suns wire-to-wire conversion with machine-like efficiency
In the game’s first three possessions, the Suns got a mid-range hop from Chris Paul, a steal from Mikal Bridges and a stop hop from Devin Booker. A few minutes later, Jay Crowder hit his three pointers from a pick-and-pop game and suddenly the score was 9-0.
The Suns will maintain this lead for the rest of the match. While their defense is often praised, and with good reason, it was their machine-like efficiency on the offensive end that proved to be the difference in this. There were a few runs as the Mavericks got frantic off the 3-point ground and Luka Doncic started to sprint, but none of that mattered because the Suns got what they wanted at the end of the attack.
This was a classic Suns performance: 50.5 percent of the field; 39.3 percent of the 3 points of the land; No one over 25 points but seven different players with at least nine; Only nine transformations as a team. The Suns obviously have a bunch of great players, but this isn’t an all-time great team that outlasts you. Instead, they stick to their system, play within their roles, and don’t flinch.
2. Eaton makes the Mavericks pay
It took over four minutes for Deandre Ayton to get a first basket—one layoff from a feed from Devin Booker in a Pick-and-Roll—but once he’s on the board, he’s unstoppable. He finished with 25 points and eight rebounds in 12 of 20 off the field in one of his best post-season performances.
Since trading Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks have turned to the ultra-small ball style. As a result, it’s very difficult to protect them, but they also give up a lot of volume on the other end, and Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleiber are at a disadvantage in front of centers like Ayton who can actually score the ball.
Ayton had three dips and was 9 out of 15 in paint. Even when he didn’t get the best position or mishandle a pass slightly, he could only get up and shoot over the Mavericks’ smaller defenders. Judging by Game 1, Ayton is going to be a huge problem in the series, and the Mavericks don’t seem to have many options to slow him down.
3. Doncic’s brilliance is not enough
A calf strain kept Luka Doncic out of his first three games into the post-season, and so far he doesn’t look like he’s 100 per cent. But even the curvy Doncic is better than most players in the league, once again proving with a phenomenal performance in the first game.
Doncic was the only one who could get anything early as he scored 14 of 25 points for the Mavericks in the first quarter. Despite his hot start, they were 10 behind in the first half. This proved to be the theme of the game, with the single Slovenian action coming short.
He finished with 45 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in 15 of 30 from the field in over 44 minutes, marking his sixth run of 40 points in the playoffs. No other person in NBA history has had more games like this before he turned 24. He either scored or assisted in 23 of 37 Mavericks made field goals (62.1 percent) while on the ground.
Even admitting that Doncic picked up a bunch of points near the end of the game in a failed comeback attempt, it’s probably not a great sign that he nearly scored a 40-point triple-double and that the Mavericks were easily outflanked. Either he will have to collect four superhero shows, or someone else in the Mavs will have to apply for them to win the series.