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3 things to watch as the Dallas Mavericks face the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Conference Semi-Finals

It’s time to get back to work

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Three days off somehow felt like a lifetime after six games of grindy basketball between the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz. After a couple days at home, Dallas finds themselves traveling to Phoenix to face off against the number one seed in the West, the Suns. The Suns closed out the New Orleans Pelicans in six games as well, but they were without one o their stars in Devin Booker for most of the series.

As of this writing (Sunday evening, around 6 pm CST), the Mavericks find themselves 5.5 point underdogs. That seems closer than I would’ve guessed considering both that the Suns only lost at home nine times all regular season and the Suns have beaten the Mavericks nine times in a row, dating back to November of 2019.

If you missed Josh’s series preview, then click here, but if not, let’s get right into the things I’m going to be watching for in Game 1 specifically.

What will the initial defensive adjustments be compared to playing the Utah Jazz?

Josh already wrote on this, better than I will but since it’s a series long chess match, I am also thinking about this question for Game 1. Dallas had the straight forward (but challenging to implement) goal of running the Utah Jazz off the three point line while also not giving them shots right at the rim. In other words, the defense asked the Jazz to beat them in the midrange.

Here’s the problem with doing that against the Suns: they feast specifically in the midrange, with both Devin Booker and Chris Paul being incredible scorers in these areas. The Mavericks have had a couple of days to practice and I am going to be very interested in what Dallas opts to give up in this series. The Suns are simply capable of more variance in their offense than the Jazz were.

Is Luka Doncic going to hunt for a mismatch or continue seeking out the hardest match up?

I mean this as an actual question, not a criticism. It was a criticism against the Jazz because Donovan Mitchell had set up an escort service to the rim. The Suns offer far more wing resistance and while Chris Paul is small, he’s a top notch defender and wily as any player in league history.

There’s a lot of supposition that the Suns are going to put Mikal Bridges on Jalen Brunson and eliminate him (and allow Bridges to roam) over placing him on Luka Doncic, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Bridges is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason and it’s not because he’s a free safety, it’s because he’s a shutdown corner.

Assuming I’m right about a Doncic-Bridges chess match, I hope that Doncic mixes and matches his approach and seeks out the smaller Paul from time to time. Getting any Suns in foul trouble will matter.

Paging Maxi Kleber

After hitting 14 of 18 threes in games 2 and 3, Maxi Kleber reverted to his mean hard in games 4, 5, and 6 hitting just two of 10 while also passing up a ton of shots. It didn’t bite the Mavericks, because the Jazz were a limited team but in order to beat the Suns, Maxi is going to have to contribute to the offense.

I’m more looking for decisiveness than I am a point total. He’s skittish with the ball and other teams know it. But he shouldn’t be, because Maxi Kleber is a pretty good basketball player who just needs to get his confidence up and have it stay there.

How to watch

The Mavericks play the Suns on TNT at 9:00 pm CST. All these games are late but the Mother’s Day one, so we better get used to it.

Here’s this morning’s Moneyball Minute. We’ve had a number of podcasts the last week, if you missed any, go check out the Mavs Moneyball Podcast feed. If you can’t see the embed below, click here to go to the podcast.

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