Thursday night (9:30pm Eastern; 2:30am UK) in Dallas, the Phoenix Suns look to follow up a dominant Game 5 win by closing out the Mavericks and securing their spot in the Western Conference Finals.
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Where to watch Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks on TV:
- UK: Sky Sports
- US: ABC
At no point during the 2021-22 season did the Suns lose four out of five games. In fact, such a slump has only befallen this group twice since the start of the 2020-21 season – the most recent, of course, came in last June’s NBA Finals, when they won the series’ first two games before dropping four straight to the Milwaukee Bucks. After a tougher-than-expected first round matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Suns started this series looking like they’d recaptured the form that made then the league’s best team throughout the regular season.
However, since those first two games, the Suns have dropped of four – all in Dallas – allowing the Mavs 120+ points/100 possessions twice and getting outscored by at least 10 points/100 possessions on each occasion.
The Mavericks formula for success has been a straightforward one – playing tough, disciplined defense on Chris Paul and restricting ‘Point God’s’ access to his favorite spots on the floor. Meanwhile, at the other end, they’ve made a point of constantly engaging Paul as a defender – forcing him into switches, running him around screens and trying, whever, possible to get him matched up against Luka Dončić, who, in addition to simply being a nightmare matchup for anyone, is much, much bigger than Paul.
As a result, Paul has been far less influential on the flow of these games. If this had been a case of CP3 taking a backseat and operating as a facilitator, as he did in the dominant Game 6 win, that’s one thing. With Paul playing his game that way, the likes of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges have enough to lead the Suns to victory. The problem here is that, over the suns three defeats in this series, Paul is averaging just 10 points, eight field goal attempts, just five assists, nearly five turnovers and five personal fouls per game. That’s not the profile of a player who’s simply letting the game come to him or focusing on getting teammates involved. From Phoenix’s perspective, the single biggest key will be getting a reengaged, prolific version of Paul.
For the Mavericks, the plan remains a simple one: maintain the defensive intensity they’ve shown in the games in Dallas, continue to bear down on and frustrate Paul and, also…. hit shots. Bold, right?
The Mavs have gotten excellent performances from Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber and Spencer Dinwiddie throughout these three wins. It’s a tall order, but they’ll need most of those guys (and/or Davis Bertans as well) to be firing on Sunday night.
Suns predicted starting lineup: Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, DeAndre Ayton
Notable injuries: Dario Saric (knee; out)
Mavericks predicted starting lineup: Luka Dončić, Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell
Notable injuries: Tim Hardaway Jr. (foot; out)
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Prediction: Mavericks (+6.5) with Luka Dončić handing out at least 10 assists and Maxi Kleber scoring 13+ points.
If Dallas’ role players can finally deliver on the road, the game will simply come down to the superstars. At this point the Mavs employ the series’ best individual player in Luka, and another perimeter star who’s playing incredibly well and with massive confidence in Jalen Brunson. If their defense can keep doing a number on CP3, this decisive game will come down to ‘Luka and Brunson’ versus ‘Booker and Ayton. It’s hardly a guarantee, but Dallas would have to like their chances in that scenario.