The Phoenix Suns definitely looked to be a part of the Western Conference top seed in their semifinal game against the Dallas Mavericks, and the latest example of that came at Game 2 on Wednesday night as the Suns ran away with a 129-109 victory to claim the win. Lead the 2-0 series. What started as a two-legged game with the Mavericks two points ahead before the break quickly spiraled out of control in the fourth quarter as Chris Paul took charge and pushed the game away in favor of Phoenix.
Paul finished the match with 28 points, made eight assists and six rebounds, while Booker scored 30 points in the victory. Four of Phoenix’s five starters finished the game in double digits, as the Suns managed to open the game with Dender Eaton playing just 19 minutes due to a foul issue.
Luka Doncic once again made a bid for the Mavericks, and finished the match with 35 points to go along with seven assists and five rebounds. Reggie Bullock added 16 points on his own to help with the loss, but that wasn’t enough to get through the Suns’ tough defense.
The series is now moving to Dallas, where Game 3 will take place on Friday. Here are three notes from Game 2.
1. Master’s degree from Chris Paul
Wednesday night was the perfect reminder not to take Paul’s first-half stats too seriously. With the Mavericks leading 60-58, Paul had just eight points in a 2-for-6 shot from the field. It was half calm from the Undisputed God Point, but it turned out to be just the calm before the storm for Paul and the sun.
After a third round-robin quarter, the Suns got into action in the final 12 minutes of the game, led by Sterling action from Paul, who collected 14 points from 28 in the fourth quarter. Paul was getting everything he wanted in the fourth quarter, and he did that mainly while chasing Doncic in matches. He enjoyed the star guard’s defense, showing off his patented mid-range game.
What’s crazy is that you’d think Doncic would be able to stay ahead of the grizzly veteran, but Paul – who looked like he was moving at half speed as he went to work – grabbed Doncic on his hip every time he drove to the edge and continued to accumulate points. You would also think that the Mavericks would try anything to slow Paul, like trying to trap the ball and force him to take the ball out of his hands, but instead it was CP3’s show and he was shooting every time he touched the ball in the fourth quarter.
By the time Paul came out with 5:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Suns had a 17-point lead and the 36-year-old goalkeeper could sit comfortably on the bench knowing his side had the win. So Phoenix was dominant in fourth because of Paul.
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2. Dallas struggled to stay out of trouble…again
In the first game, Bronson and Bullock made costly early errors for the Mavericks to limit their production in the first half. Tonight, it was Dallas’ top defender, Dorian Vinnie Smith, who made three fouls in the first half. On the bright side, the Mavericks managed to produce a superb production from Davis Bertans blazing in the first half from long range, putting in nine points on 3 of 6 from depth. Vinnie-Smith’s loss for most of the first half wasn’t as damaging to Dallas as it could have been, given his two-point lead after 24 minutes.
However, the contamination was not limited to only the first half. Bronson finished the match with four fouls, Dwight Powell has five and Vinnie Smith has four. This resulted in Dallas not being able to be as aggressive as he wanted in defense in the second half, resulting in a 28-point lead in the Suns’ paint after the break. Mistakes to key players like Vinnie Smith and Bronson also wiped out their production on the offensive side of the ball as well. Vinnie-Smith, who fired 39.5 percent from depth in the first round against Utah while averaging 13.2 points per game, finished the game with only two points on two shot attempts. He’s a crucial part of what Dallas does in attack, primarily as a 3-corner specialist who takes advantage of Doncic and Bronson’s passes.
Speaking of Bronson, he finished the game with -22, while putting in just nine points and hitting 25 percent of the field. It’s the second game in a row that Bronson has struggled against a scant Suns defense, and his inability to continue attacking has hampered the Mavericks significantly. Add to that the fact that Dinwiddie has been back to his ineffective ways from his previous assignment in Washington, D.C. throughout the playoffs, and the Mavericks don’t get much production from anyone outside of Doncic.
Much of that is attributed to the astral ocean defense used by Phoenix, followed by legitimate edge protection from Ayton and JaVale McGee. But still, the Mavericks will need to know how to consistently place dots on the board, or else it will be a fast streak for them.
3. Does this series bring it back to Phoenix?
The series now moves to Dallas with the Suns leading 2-0 and showing no signs of slowing down. The Mavericks showed flashes of their ability to take on this team, specifically in the last few minutes of Game 1 where they tried to come back up again, and in the first half of Game 2 where it looked like they could have won this game.
However, the Suns are not a team you can make a lot of mistakes against, and there will be little room for error heading into Game 3 on Friday. Some of the mods that the Mavericks can make work even harder to fight on screens so Doncic doesn’t get caught in the crossfire on every flight on Earth. If Paul and Booker managed to catch Doncic each time, this streak would quickly end.
In case of attack, Dallas simply needs more Brunson and Dinwiddie. Bullock did everything he could in Game 2 to help Doncic in attack, especially in the third quarter when he rocked three-pointers in a row, but Dallas couldn’t afford another smelly night as he finished with just nine points. Part of that is because he made pointless mistakes when he was thrown into the switches and assigned to guard Ayton, but Suns will keep switching and making mistakes with him, so he needs to make sure he can at least be productive. Another end.
If the Mavericks cannot find out when hosting their next two games at the American Airlines Center, there will be no need to make travel arrangements back to Phoenix for Game 5 or beyond.
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