When the Dallas Mavericks began their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Phoenix Suns, most assumed they would be sent to summer vacation pretty quickly.
The Suns, people reasoned, were a well-balanced team that is greater than the sum of its parts, while the Mavericks were just a one-man team.
Phoenix won the first two games, despite two otherworldly performances from Luka Doncic, and it looked like a sweep was a real possibility.
Dallas then took Game 3, 103-94, and many dismissed it as an aberration and felt that the Suns would reassert themselves in Game 4.
Instead, the Mavs not only took Game 4, 111-101, but they found some things that worked well for them.
Luka Doncic stuns the defense with the up & under and showing us all off with his elite footwork! 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/x4Ld8XYuN1
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 7, 2022
Most importantly, they have gotten Doncic some much-needed help.
Doncic Hasn’t Been A Solo Act In Dallas’ Two Wins
The Slovenian native has been sensational in this series.
He put up 45 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 1, then followed that up with 35 points and seven assists in Game 2.
However, he didn’t get enough assistance on either end of the floor, and Phoenix cruised to victory in both contests.
But the tide started to turn in Game 3.
Doncic had 26 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists, but guard Jalen Brunson exploded for 28 points and five assists to help the Mavs’ cause.
Then on Sunday, Brunson scored 18 points, while Dorian Finney-Smith contributed 24 points and went 8-of-12 from 3-point range.
What made that victory all the more impressive was that Doncic had a bad shooting game, making just 9-of-25 shots from the field and 1-of-10 from 3-point land.
Dallas Has Also Been Winning With D
In the regular season, the Suns were a well-oiled machine, ranking fourth in offensive rating while scoring 114.8 points per game, which was fifth in the NBA.
They were true to form in the first two games of this series, scoring 121 and 129 points, respectively, while shooting over 50 percent from the field in both contests, including a nova-like 64.5 percent in Game 2.
But afterward, Dallas started clamping down on the squad that won more regular season games than any other this year.
Phoenix shot under 50 percent in Game 3 and Game 4, and the Mavericks did not allow a single Suns player to reach 20 points in Game 3.
On Sunday, Devin Booker went for 35 points, but no one else had more than 15 points.
In particular, Chris Paul, whom everyone expects to play big in such games, only took four shots all day, making two of them and scoring just five points in 23 minutes before fouling out.
Chris Paul has fouled out of Game 4 after this play on Jalen Brunson. pic.twitter.com/r5ooajNzCw
— ESPN (@espn) May 8, 2022
Brunson Might Be The Key Moving Forward
In the first round of the playoffs versus the Utah Jazz, Brunson looked like a budding star, averaging 27.8 points a game while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from downtown.
Other than Doncic, he is the only other player the Mavs have who can get his own shot against a set halfcourt defense.
Doncic can, and likely will, have at least one more superhuman game in this series, but it won’t matter if he doesn’t get enough help, especially on the offensive end.