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NBA

Mavs tied series with the Suns - what are they doing differently?

After two brutal losses to the No. 1 seed Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavs have come back to even the series. What have they done differently these last two?

Jennifer Bubel
Update:

The Mavericks went 0-2 to start their Round 2 series against the No. 1 Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs. The Suns were dominant against a Mavs team that was carried by star Luka Doncic and pretty much Doncic alone. He had little help and the defense looked weak.

But in the next two games, something changed. Drastically. Dallas won the last two in a row to even the series now to 2-2. In Sunday night’s game, the Mavs didn’t let the Suns take the lead past two and a half minutes. By halftime, the Suns were down by 12. They won the game 111-101. So what are the Mavs doing differently?

Mavs playing better defense

Luka Doncic himself contributes the change mostly to playing better defense.

“I’ve always been confident, I think we have a really good team,” said Doncic. “We played much better defense, and I think that was the key.”

But let’s break it down a bit more. In the first two games of the series, the Suns hunted Doncic, who still managed to put up 45 points in the first game, but to no avail. The Mavericks seem to have learned from that and are doing the same thing to the Suns’ Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Mikal Bridges. Paul had his fair share of problems with turnovers and fouls in the first two games, but Dallas really maximized on that in the next two. Paul finished with just 17 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, nine turnovers, and ten fouls over the last two games.

Suns can’t stop Doncic in the paint

With Doncic in the paint, Jalen Brunson has the ability to attack downhill and Doncic has the ability to play strong on both ends.

“I think when you put him [Doncic] in the post, he can score,” said Mavs head coach Jason Kidd. “But also, he gives avenues of other guys being able to score because he causes a problem. He’s a very good passer. He’s a willing passer. If we can get to the paint and get to the rim, it helps us and gives us an opportunity offensively to have some success.”

Mavs making threes

On Sunday, the Mavericks got at least 20 three-pointers for the second time in the post season. They hit a record of 22 threes in Game 2 against the Utah Jazz. In Game 4 against the Suns, they shot 20-for-44 from deep. It wasn’t just Doncic either. In fact, he actually only hit one three-pointer on Sunday. There were seven others who hit at least one three-pointer on the night. Dorian Finney-Smith shot five-for-seven from three-point range just over the first half.

Everyone joining the party

After Games 1 and 2, Kidd was concerned about Doncic being the only player to show up and said the others need to “join the party.” Well, it seems they’ve joined. In Game 3, Jalen Brunson led the team in scoring and Finney-Smith, Kleber, and Reggie Bullock scored at least 14 points. On Sunday’s Game 4, Doncic still finished with the team-high 26 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists, and four steals, but this time, he had help. Finney-Smith shot eight-for-12 from the three-point range and put up 24 points. Brunson finished with 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting, and Spencer Dinwiddie, Maxi Kleber, and Davis Bertans put up a combined 33 points.

“They’re at the party,” said Kidd. “I think you know one of the big things that we talked about on this journey is that we understand Luka’s talent and how good he is, but for us to be a team, there’s going to be times when other guys are going to have to make shots. They’re going to take the ball out of Luka’s hands. And you saw that this afternoon.”

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