Devin Booker was not impressed with Luka Doncic’s defense in Game 2. Doncic clearly struggled defensively in that game, and the Phoenix Suns attacked him mercilessly in the second half. The Dallas Mavericks gave Booker some of his own medicine in Game 3.
Booker has become a solid defender. While he does not carry a similar offensive load as Doncic due to the Suns’ depth, he is an incredibly important part of their offense. That makes attacking him on the defensive end an important part of the Mavericks’ offense.
The Mavericks did not shoot well from outside which is why it is unsurprising that the Mavericks were 0-of-7 on threes with Booker credited as the primary defender per NBA.com. Those misses were due to the Mavericks simply missing more than good contests from Booker.
The Mavericks were relentless attacking the basket though and that is where they hurt Booker. The Mavericks were 9-of-11 on twos defended by Booker. It would be difficult to shoot that well in an empty gym. In at least one case, after Jalen Brunson bodied Booker into the stanchion, Brunson was essentially in an empty gym despite a mild contest from Deandre Ayton.
The most aggressive player in attacking Booker was definitely Brunson who had his best game of the series. Brunson had 28 points in Game 3 after averaging 11 points per game in Games 1 and 2. This level of aggression from Brunson will need to continue as he was a true equal of Doncic in responsibility in Game 3. Doncic is the better player, but he is at his best when Brunson is playing well.
Brunson was not the only one to attack Booker though. Booker was one of the many defenders whom Doncic took into the post. Doncic is simply too skilled, big and strong for any of the Suns’ perimeter defenders other than perhaps Jae Crowder. This work of pivoting beauty is the perfect example of the best way for Doncic to get in on attacking Booker.
The final member of the Mavericks to get in on the act of attacking Booker was none other than Maxi Kleber. Kleber had a truly phenomenal Game 3. He showcased a level of versatility offensively which is incredibly impressive for a center. One facet of that versatility was this attack of a half hearted closeout from Booker. Kleber had a bigger statistical game in Game 2 against the Utah Jazz because he made more threes, but this was the most impressive offensive game of his career. He made pull up twos, spot up threes, duck in layups and this driving dunk on Booker.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Suns are an amazing team but the Mavericks showed in Game 3 that this series is not a lost cause. In order to continue to be competitive the Mavericks are going to have to continue to take a page from the Suns’ book and attack their opponent’s best player. If they can continue to do that, this series just got a lot more interesting.