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3 things as the Mavericks rage against the dying of the light against the Suns in Game 6

Once more unto the breach

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a back and forth series the whole way. Both in the win column and geographically, with neither team able to steal a win on either’s home court. With Phoenix putting the Mavs to bed early in Game 5, they stand one win away from a ticket back to the Western Conference Finals. For Dallas, it’s do or die. Hold home court and then let the chips fall where they may in Phoenix for Game 7. With their backs to the wall, they’ll be playing the same underdog role they’ve been playing in this whole series as Phoenix is 2-point road favorites.

The “Blank” Game

Dallas’ playoff run has felt defined by big games from its role players. When Luka was out against Utah, Jalen Brunson ascended to give Dallas an unlikely 2-1 series lead before Doncic’s return. Maxi had an incandescent “8-of-12 from three” game. Bertans has scored buckets in bunches to help the Mavs win the “non-Luka” minutes. Dorian Finney-Smith set his career-high in threes to help Dallas even the series at two games apiece. What we’re really waiting on is a big Spencer Dinwiddie game.

In the regular season, Dinwiddie made the Porzingis trade look like a revelation. He was out there hitting back-to-back game-winners. He’s got that killer instinct and fearlessness to hit the big shot. And, in fairness, he’s hit some big shots in this postseason. But he hasn’t quite put together a complete game. The Game 5 blowout showed us what happens when Dallas doesn’t get enough from players not named Doncic and Brunson. If ever there was a time for Dinwiddie to put his mark on a game, it would be now.

Set ‘em up, knock ‘em down

Per a tweet from The Ringer's Kevin O’Conner, In Game 5, the Mavericks hit only 3 shots on the 12 assists from Luka Doncic. It goes without saying that 25% isn’t going to cut it in an elimination game. Compare that to the 9-of-17 and 12-of-20 nights in Games 3 and 4.

But it’s not just about the shooters. In Game 5, Dallas went deeper into the shot clock than they had in previous games, and on at least two or three occasions, Luka ran out of time dribbling and ended up dumping off a grenade for a player like Maxi Kleber to heave a long three-point attempt. Those are not the kind of quality looks this team has depended on to power their offense.

The most dangerous game

There is perhaps no one in the league that can truly guard Luka Doncic 1-on-1. Phoenix fans and league waters everywhere thought that, if anyone could do it, it’s Mikal Bridges. So far, that has not been the case in this series. Luka takes pride in being able to take on the opposing team’s best defenders (Switching onto Gobert in the last series, or even onto Giannis Antetokounmpo himself). There’s some merit to that. The theory that having to guard Doncic has hindered Bridge’s offensive games seems to hold some weight.

Still, we’ve seen the blueprint for a Dallas win, and it involves hyper-efficient offensive play. Luka has seemingly hunted Cam Payne out of the rotation because he scored on him so effortlessly. Now, he’ll need to pick a new target that he can bully down low and put buckets on. (Making that player Chris Paul and piling on some foul in a game being reffed by Scott Foster isn’t the worst option I’ve heard.)

How to watch

You can watch the broadcast on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. CST. Good luck and God speed.

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