The Dallas Mavericks tied the Western Conference Semifinals 2-2, following a 111-101 win in Game 4 over the Phoenix Suns Sunday afternoon. Luka Doncic led Dallas with 26 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. Devin Booker was the high point man for Phoenix with 35 points.
The two teams traded baskets to open things up until Luka Doncic picked up his first technical foul of the postseason, arguing for a possession and a half after the play. But the Suns couldn’t capitalize on Dallas’ focus, and the Mavericks hit back to back threes to give them a 13-8 lead, forcing a Suns timeout. Things remain extremely chippy throughout the frame with both teams picking up fouls from their superstars (Doncic and Chris Paul each got two). Hot three point shooting spots the Mavericks as they hit eight in the quarter, and they led one 37-25.
Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie helped grind the light up to 17 points before a pair of Jae Crowder threes cut the Dallas lead back down to 11. Despite winning most of the non-Doncic minutes, Brunson and the bench lost a moment of plenty. Middle of the quarter and Phoenix cut the lead down to eight following a Dwight Powell technical foul. Once Doncic re-entered the game, the two teams continued to trade trade baskets with the Mavericks in the back-to-back 8-11 point range. Luka got fouled a ton down the stretch, including drawing Chris Paul’s fourth foul, and his free throws helped carry Dallas to a 68-56 halftime lead.
The Mavericks came out with the ugly offense to start the second half while fouling on a lot of defense and the Suns quickly cut the lead down. But Chris Paul, wildly, picked up an offensive call on his fifth foul as he tried to draw a foul on Jalen Brunson following a Brunson turnover. Dallas managed to stay ahead by 5-10 points, but it often felt as if they were holding on to play more than close out the game. Frank Ntilikina connected on a big three at the quarter and the Mavericks were going into the fourth, up 87-78.
The final frame was a grind-it-out affair, with even more calls including Chris Paul’s six foul. Phoenix worked the Dallas lead down to six points, trailing 89-83 and a timeout called the Mavericks. The Mavericks had just two points in five minutes of offense and Jason Kidd called a timeout with 7:12 remaining. Dallas scored 8 straight points to take a 97-83 lead with six minutes left. From there, it was about the Mavericks holding on. Although the Suns started scoring, the Mavericks had an answer closer than ever. Dallas won 111-101 and ties up the series 2-2. The series heads back to Phoenix Tuesday night.
Now, some thoughts
Dorian Finney-Smith and the role players came through big time
The non-Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson Dallas Mavericks were a scorching 18 of 31 from three point range against the Suns. Although Finney-Smith had a very good Game 3, this Game 4 performance was the type that Dallas fans would have understood if the Mavericks were to make any noise in this series. And through four games, the role players have been quite loud.
Finney-Smith’s 24 points and eight rebounds were wildly important as the Mavericks kept the Suns at bay. Davis Bertans had the kind of game we’d all been thinking about, hitting four three-pointers to keep Dallas ahead of Doncic on the bench. Heck, even the French Prince got in the action with a momentum halting three to start the fourth. With Doncic and Brunson giving Dallas a mixed bag at times, these performances helped carry the day.
Keeping the Suns off-balance
These two games in Dallas seem to have shook Phoenix from the calm, cool, and collected state they’ve lived in for most of the year. They’ve never lost a game this season coming into the fourth, so the Dallas solution has been heading to the fourth.
There are a number of things to play in, beyond the shooting. One of them is the crowd, which has been incredible, and that is giving Dallas a real home court advantage. And, despite the fouls being 25-21 with the Suns committing four more, it’s fair to say that a lot of calls went the way of Dallas at times that were very favorable. Luka Doncic’s early lobbying (note extreme sarcasm) somehow didn’t burn Dallas and he marched to the free throw line to end the second quarter. That lack of friendly whistle put the Suns off their game and the Mavericks took advantage.
Dallas has no pressure, not really. They’re the fourth seed playing a team that won 64 games and no one gave them a chance. Now that they’ve got the Suns off kilter, it’s time to knock them off their feet in Game 5.
Luka Doncic can be unstoppable
Doncic took 10 threes tonight and hit 1. He lowered his career playoff three point shooting percentage from 38.8% to 37.2% in a single game, which is really impressive. And yet, the Mavericks are ending the thing in the third quarter because of Luka Doncic’s continued attacking and getting the entire Suns team into foul trouble, heck Chris Paul fouled out for just the fourth time ever.
In Game 5, he’ll either hit 7 of 10 or won’t shoot at all and he’ll dominate the passing and driving. Doncic controls elements of the game with its driving, between foul drawing and passing to corners. There is nothing he can do at this point, beating himself when he occasionally ranges into very-emotional language. And yet we ‘ll take it every time. What an incredible basketball player. Even when he is not his best, he is still amazing.
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