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Friday, April 29, 2022

Phoenix Versus Dallas Preview

Western Conference Second Round

#1 Phoenix (64-18) vs. #4 Dallas (52-30)

Season series: Phoenix, 3-0

Dallas can win if…the Mavericks continue making a high volume of three pointers while shooting efficiently from beyond the arc. The Mavericks averaged 15.5 3FGM/game in their six game first round win over the Utah Jazz, the highest average in the 2022 playoffs so far, and a significant increase over the 13.1 3FGM/game that they averaged during the regular season. The Mavericks' strategy versus the Jazz was to bomb away from long range to minimize Rudy Gobert's defensive impact, the same approach that helped the L.A. Clippers defeat the Jazz in last year's playoffs. That strategy is unlikely to be effective versus the Suns, who ranked fifth in the league in three point defensive field goal percentage during the regular season. 

Luka Doncic missed the first three games of the first round due to injury, but the Mavericks surprisingly went 2-1 without him before going 2-1 with him. Doncic averaged 29.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg, and 5.7 apg against Utah. He must post even better numbers against Phoenix for Dallas to pull off the upset. Doncic is a special player, and he has the ability to be the best player in this series. He is not a high flyer, nor does he have blazing speed, but he is strong, crafty, and quicker in small spaces than he may look. Defensive players rarely can speed him up or slow him down; Doncic operates at his pace, gets to the spots on the court he wants to get to, and then decides whether to shoot or pass. His game is an interesting combination of Oscar Robertson's all-around skills and Chris Mullin's mastery of change of pace.

Jalen Brunson starred while Doncic sat out--including a 41 point outburst in Dallas' game two win, enabling the Mavericks to seize home court advantage--and Brunson had an outstanding series overall (27.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg). 

The Jazz killed the Mavericks on the boards (44.8 rpg to 37.7 rpg) but that did not matter because the Mavericks made so many three pointers and because the Mavericks turned the ball over so infrequently.

Before hiring Jason Kidd as their coach, the Mavericks lacked a defensive identity, and they had not won a playoff series since 2011, when Kidd was the point guard for their championship team. Now, the Mavericks are vastly improved defensively, and it is no coincidence that they just won a playoff series for the first time in 11 years. 

Phoenix will win because…the Suns demonstrated over the course of the 82 game season that they have the best, most well-rounded team in the league. The Suns have no significant weaknesses, ranking among the league leaders in most key offensive and defensive categories. Their lack of size hurt them versus Milwaukee in the 2021 NBA Finals but few teams have big players who are skilled enough to bother the Suns. The Suns hunt advantageous matchups on offense, and they cover for each other on defense. They are very well-prepared by Coach Monty Williams, and they tend to neither get rattled if they fall behind nor complacent if they are ahead. It will take a complete, well-coached team to beat the Suns in a seven game series (assuming that the Suns stay healthy).

The Suns shot .523 from the field in their six game first round win versus the New Orleans Pelicans, and their top four scorers each shot at least .500 from the field. Devin Booker (23.0 ppg) shot .500 from the field, Paul (22.3 ppg, 11.3 apg) shot .567 from the field--including his record-setting 14-14 game six performance--and Deandre Ayton (20.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) shot .700 from the field. Mikal Bridges, an elite defensive player, scored 17.3 ppg while shooting .551 from the field. The Mavericks' improved defense will be put to the test by a Phoenix team that not only has good shooters but also has great shot selection.

Other things to consider: Booker just came back from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the second half of game two and all of games three through five in the first round, and he has had hamstring issues off and on in recent years. If he misses significant time during this series, the Suns' margin for error shrinks significantly. Chris Paul was magnificent in the game six clincher versus New Orleans but he had an up and down series, and he has a career-long pattern of wearing down and/or getting injured as the playoffs progress. Booker being out of action and/or Paul being out or ineffective are the main factors that could swing this series in Dallas' favor. Otherwise, I see Dallas getting hot from long range and stealing one of the first two games in Phoenix before the Suns win the series in six games.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:12 PM



At Sunday, May 01, 2022 3:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Phoenix in 5 or 6

Chris Paul been super clutch in closeout games 37 41 33 points last 3 closeouts

Him and book won't let them lose

At Monday, May 02, 2022 8:34:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Phoenix is my pick not just because of Paul and Booker, but because of the overall superiority of the Suns' roster.


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