The Dallas Mavericks got ran off the floor Tuesday night, losing to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5, 110-80. Devin Booker was incandescent for the Suns, scoring 28 points. Luka Doncic was the high point man for the Mavericks, also scoring 28. The teams head back to Dallas for Game 6 Thursday night.
Dallas started off cooking early, with Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson hitting good shots and Dorian Finney-Smith picking up right where he left off from Sunday, connecting on a pair of threes. Both DeAndre Ayton and Dwight Powell picked up two early fouls, causing early line up changes. Devin Booker kept the pedal down for the Suns though, scoring with ease over stout Dallas defense. Dallas pulled ahead by eight, then started settling for shots from distance that didn’t fall. The Suns rallied back and the Mavericks closed the frame up 26-23.
With Luka Doncic starting the second period on the bench, Jalen Brunson went to work for the Mavericks. The Suns kept the pressure on though, closing the Dallas lead down to two before a seven point outburst from Davis Bertans. Dallas missed a number of good looks and the Suns defense mucked up the Maverick offense enough to make the game a grind. Sloppy play from Dallas resulted in the Suns tying the game at 40 around the four minute mark. The two teams traded leads until Phoenix took their biggest lead on a step back shot from Chris Paul. Dallas trailed at the half, 49-46.
The Mavericks came out sloppy in the third quarter and Devin Booker came out hot. After pulling within one twice, the Suns responded to Dallas with a 10-0 run forcing a Mavericks timeout. The run continued though with the Mavericks playing lethargic basketball across the board. Doncic finally broke the 17-0 run hitting one of two free throws, but the damage was immense. Phoenix led by as many as 24 in the period but ended up ahead 82-60 heading into the fourth.
Dallas tried to make it a contest, but faced a brief scare with an apparent Reggie Bullock knee injury. The Mavericks cut it to 17 but the Suns quickly closed the door on them. Benches were emptied by the four minute mark and there were some silly extra-curriculars from guys who haven’t contributed in either series, but emotions run high in the playoffs. Dallas left Phoenix getting beat 110-80 and down 3-2 in the series.
Third quarter meltdown
Going over the film from the third quarter will be unpleasant for the Mavericks. Dallas had a whopping 12 turnovers in the quarter if my math is right and everyone got in on the action. Brunson in particular had a brutal start handling the ball and pushed Jason Kidd to use a Coach’s Challenge on an obvious charge.
I’m not sure what’s more surprising: the sloppy play that just kept getting worse, or the fact that the coaching staff didn’t call a timeout after the challenge at the 7:56 mark. This was such a terrible team performance in the quarter, it’s shocking to see the stats on review. Dallas scored just 14 points and committed 12 turnovers.
Phoenix limited the Dallas ball movement
There’s going to be a fair amount of review of this game done by people smarter than me, but assists from Dallas have been a key indicator in this series. In the two losses to start the series, the Mavericks assisted on just 46% of made baskets whereas they assisted on 60% of made baskets. The Mavericks finished with just 9 assists on 27 made baskets. That's 33% for anyone who hates math.
The Dallas offense was a maddening mix of ugly (too many possessions with a Luka Doncic post up near the three point line) paired with really good Phoenix defense (they sent soft double teams to Doncic on those post ups). The playoffs are a chess match, but in a first viewing of this game I felt that Dallas settled for too many isolation situations and couldn’t find any effective counters for what Phoenix was showing them on defense. If they want to force a Game 7, they’ll need to do better.
Role players shrinking
This point is built off understanding two other items: first, I’m not talking about Davis Bertans, who hit 3 of 4 from three, and second the three point shooting across the board sucked (8 for 32 as a team).
Dallas role players have to do better. Three Dallas starters, Dorian Finny-Smith, Dwight Powell, and Reggie Bullock combined for 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 turnovers. It’s hard to contextualize how terrible that is. I want Luka Doncic to stop taking step back threes over DeAndre Ayton as much as the next guy, but if a player is going to be on the floor, they can’t be as awful as nearly everyone was for the Mavericks tonight. Maxi Kleber was terrible, Spencer Dinwiddie might as well not suit up if this is what he’s giving Dallas, I could keep going.
Role players tend to play better at home (unless you’re Bertans, a human green light), and that’s what we have to hope for. Just a brutal game for the entire team.
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