The difference in talent is clear. The versatility possessed by the Suns on both ends of the floor is clear. Down 0-2, the stakes of tonight’s game are clear. The season is on the line tonight as the Mavericks face off against the Suns in game 3. Winning 4 out of the next 5 games seems like an impossible feat but we aren’t talking about winning the series. Not yet at least. For now, we focus on tonight’s game and whether it’s worth betting on the Mavericks coming out on top in a one-game sample.
Spread: Mavs Pick Em (-110)
This line tells us Vegas knows that Phoenix is the better team but has to account for home-court advantage. There isn’t necessarily value to be extracted from a pick-em game so let's focus on the basketball aspect of tonight’s game.
Question 1: Can Kidd come up with the necessary adjustments to slow down Phoenix’s offensive attack and find ways to poke holes in the Sun’s defense.
Question 2: Do the Mavericks have the talent to execute those adjustments.
In this series, Question 2 is the more important question. In fact, Question 2 has been the issue the past 3 postseasons. You have to arm your head coach with players capable of executing their game plans. At the moment, the Mavericks have 6 players that can respectfully hold their own on both ends of the floor(Luka, Bullock, DFS, Dinwiddie, Brunson, and Kleber). Dwight Powell is unplayable in minutes where Luka sits and even with Luka on the floor, he doesn’t pose a big enough threat as a rim runner to negate the lack of spacing his presence causes. Too often, Powell finds himself with the ball above the free-throw line with nowhere to go. A more dynamic player would be able to attack the rim or hit a wide-open 15-footer. Josh Green isn’t ready to contribute in this type of setting. His presence on the court doesn’t create an advantage for the Mavs. Kidd is simply hoping his energy can bring about a certain type of chaos that buys the Mavs an extra possession or two. The only other player capable of playing meaningful minutes is Davis Bertans. His ability to take and hit 3s is sorely needed but should the Suns look to hunt him there’s very little he can do. He may be able to hold up for a possession here or there but eventually, Kidd will be forced to determine whether his shooting is enough to justify him being in the game. The lack of depth puts a tremendous amount of strain on the starters and Luka in particular. Asking them to expend the type of energy needed to grind out points for 4 quarters is a tough ask. This series shouldn’t be a referendum on whether or not Kidd was the right hire. Championship rosters are deep and can play in a variety of ways at a high level. The Mavericks don’t have one of those. What we have is a collection of mostly one-way role players who are good to very good at what they do. For the Mavericks to win tonight, those role players are going to have to maximize their talent and hope that it’s enough. Historically, role players shoot a higher percentage at home than they do on the road. The 3-point shot is the great equalizer and if the Mavs can rally behind their home crowd and set the nets on fire from deep, they may be able to save their season if only for one more game.
ADVICE: Take the Mavs. This is the best chance the Mavericks will have at winning a game in this series.
ADVICE: Take the Over. The Mavs have to wreak havoc and turn this game into a shootout. They aren’t good enough to out-execute the Suns in a low-scoring game.