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Doncic display not enough for the Mavs

Luka Doncic put in another brilliant performance but it wasn’t enough to stop the Suns going 1-0 up in the Western Conference semi-final series.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 02: Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns attempts a shot against Dwight Powell #7 and Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game One of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 02, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Mavericks 121-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP
Christian PetersenAFP

The opening game of the Western Conference semi-final series showed the Mavs that this is a world away from the regular season. Luka Doncic put in another heroic display but he is going to have to produce even more for his team if they are to advance to the final. Deandre Ayton scored 25 points, Devin Booker added 23 and pulled down nine rebounds as the top-seeded Suns breezed to a 121-114 win over Dallas in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series on Monday night. Chris Paul had 19 points, Cam Johnson 17, Mikal Bridges 13 and Jae Crowder 11 as the Suns went 1-0 up in the series which continues in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Doncic finished with 45 points — just one point shy of his post-season career-high — for the Mavericks, who were outrebounded 51-36 and lost despite outscoring the host 48-33 on 3-pointers. He set his personal best of 46 points in last year’s playoffs in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers - in a similar defeat and feeling of helplessness. He shot 15/30 in field goals and 11/14 in free throws, adding 12 rebounds and eight assists. But Doncic couldn’t do it all on his own, he lacked support at Phoenix’s Footprint Center.

Coming off a hard-fought win over the New Orleans Pelicans in six games, the Suns wasted no time gaining the upper hand on the fourth-seeded Mavericks, scoring the game’s first nine points. Crowder contributed a 3-pointer to cap the run. Phoenix went on to lead by as many as 15 later in the first quarter, 18 in the third period and 106-85 on a dunk by JaVale McGee with 8:48 remaining before coasting home.

With Ayton hitting 12 of his 20 shots, the Suns outshot the Mavs 50.5 percent to 47.1 percent. Phoenix led the NBA with a 52.3 percent shooting percentage in the first round, while Dallas allowed just 44.3 percent shooting, third-best in the league, in its opening-round win over the Utah Jazz. The Suns also helped themselves with 13 offensive rebounds and a perfect (18-for-18) at the free throw line, with Booker going 8-for-8. Ayton picked up right where he left off in the first round, when he had four 20-plus-point games, with a high of 28. He and Crowder each pulled down eight rebounds.

Maxi Kleber chipped in with 19 points for Dallas, who also lost the first game in the Utah series before rallying to take four of the next five. Dorian Finney-Smith added 15 points and Jalen Brunson, 13.

The defense faltered in the first half and in the second the Slovenian’s fatigue was noticeable, who only increased the figure in the 4th, more due to urgency than anything else. It will be incredibly tough for Nico Harrison’s team to match the Suns’ level and turn the series around - we are talking about the best team of the campaign. But there have been chinks in the Suns’ armour. The Texans can work on that in Game 2 at the FootPrint Center on Wednesday night.

Suns coach Monty Williams conceded afterwards, “I wouldn’t say we were out of rhythm, I just thought we missed a lot of shots versus their switching. We had an advantage with our bigs - especially with JaVale. I thought we made a few bad reads and it ended up in late clock situations and sometimes that can look like you’re out of rhythm. Overall, I felt we played a solid game. When they went small, that was when we didn’t take advantage of that line-up like we had been. We gave up some easy threes and transition threes that we typically don’t give up. Just because we were miscommunicating in that same segment when we weren’t scoring like we did in the first half. We could be better. We scored 121 with that fourth quarter, so I know our guys are feeling that, and that’s what we said. But we can’t have those kinds of quarters against a team like that and give up a 35. If you have a 25, you only want to give up a 25 or 26. The goal going into the 4th for me was, let’s win the 4th and we didn’t. A lot of it was missed shots but we didn’t handle the switches like we have been when teams like that have done that to us”.


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