After falling behind 9-3 at the start of the game, the Dallas Mavericks quickly regained control and never gave it up. It wasn’t a pretty game, but the Mavs did all the little things right. They led with active hands, forcing tons of turnovers. They got to the rim. They dove for loose balls. They defended their tails off. Ultimately, Dallas got what they needed: a win.
Here are 5 numbers that tell the story of the season-saving win.
12: Frank Ntilikina minutes
I want to sound as positive as possible, so I’m going with the number 12 here, instead of the number zero. 12 is the number of minutes Frank Ntilikina played, but what that really means is Josh Green played zero minutes.
This isn’t meant to be a dig at Josh Green. He just simply isn’t a good enough basketball player to have playoff minutes against the best team in the league. It’s not like Frank Ntilikina is a world breaker, but he’s disruptive on defense and has more experience. Ultimately, he’s the guy who should be playing in those minutes, not Josh Green, and Jason Kidd rolled with that tonight.
10: Dwight Powell minutes
While we’re talking about minutes, let’s talk about our guy Dwight Powell.
Dwight, we love you. You’re a good man and a fine center. But you are not meant to be on the court in this series.
We’ve seen Powell’s minutes go down game by game because ultimately, he bogs down the offense. The flow is much better when the Mavs go small and have Maxi Kleber or Dorian Finney-Smith playing the role of the 5-man.
In Game 1, Powell played 16 minutes. In Game 2, he played 13. And in the Game 3 win, he only played 10. Kidd needs to keep leaning into this. I would love to see the Mavs come out of the locker room at halftime of Game 4 with Maxi starting over Dwight. But we’ll see.
5: Luka Doncic fouls
You can’t tell the story of tonight’s game without mentioning Dallas’ prodigal son, Luka Doncic, getting into some bogus foul trouble. I don’t like to pick on refs, because it’s a hard job and I don’t think there’s much (if any) intentional bias going into these calls, but Luka really got the short end of the stick in Game 3, picking up weird foul after weird foul.
When Doncic picked up his fifth foul in the fourth quarter, things looked like they might get dicey, but thankfully the supporting cast held down the fort.
7: Chris Paul turnovers
The Suns shot a better percentage than the Mavs from the field, from behind the arc, and from the free-throw line. So how were the Mavs able to have a sizable lead for the majority of the game? They were relentless in forcing turnovers, and unfortunately for Chris Paul on his birthday, he was the main culprit.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Chris Paul had the same number of points as turnovers: Seven. Any time that’s the case, your team is probably looking good. Unfortunately, I don’t expect Chris Paul to be that sloppy in Game 4.
28: Jalen Brunson points
The biggest story of the night was undoubtedly Jalen Brunson’s revival. He’s back, folks!
After a miserable first two games of the Western Conference Semis, JB bounced back in a huge way. He was aggressive from the jump, scoring 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field to go along with five assists, four boards, and only one turnover.
He was the Jalen Brunson Mavs fans have come to know and love. He was the Jalen Brunson the Mavs desperately needed to step up and help save the season. Hopefully, he can keep that confident look in his eye going into Sunday’s Game 4.
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