Mavericks vs. Suns Goal, Takeaway: Luka Doncic and Dallas went into Game 7 with a one-sided victory over Phoenix.

The Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns advance to Game 7. Luka Doncic and Mavericks drew their second round series 3-3 with a 113-86 win in Game 6 at home on Thursday night. Dallas took a 15-point lead in the first half and made 16 3-pointers before looking back to take the comeback victory.

Doncic led all the scorers with 11 rebounds and 8 assists with 33 points. Reggie Bullock and Jalen Brunson helped the Mavs cause by adding 37 points.

After a 30-point victory in Game 5, the Suns struggled once again on the road. Chris Paul scored 13 goals in seven field goal attempts. Devin Booker scored 19 goals but missed all four of his three-pointers.

Game 7 is set for Sunday in Phoenix. The home team has won every game in the series, and Phoenix will work to continue that trend and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, the Mavericks are looking for their first conference finals spot since 2011. Here are the highlights of Game 6.

doing my best for the last

See the Undertaker gif because Luka Doncic won’t die. The four-year superstar is already setting one of the greatest playoff records in NBA history. He has currently appeared in 22 postseason games and has scored over 30 points in 13 of them. But when his back truly hits the wall? That’s when Doncic truly shines.

The Mavericks made three playoffs during Doncic’s career and Thursday was Doncic’s third elimination game. He lost the first two, but his efforts were not lacking. Doncic scored 38 points in 2020 when the Mavericks lost Game 6 to the Clippers, and lifted himself up to 46 points in Game 7 a year ago. Throwing in his 33 points, Doncic is averaging an astonishing 39 points in elimination games. LeBron James and Alex Groza are tied for second with “just” 33.5 points per game.

The first two elimination games Doncic played were against Kawhi Leonard and two-time Defender of the Year. Tonight’s match was against defender of the year 2nd place Mikal Bridges. I’d like to point out that there is a bit of a strategic tick here. There are some subtle changes to his playstyle that make Doncic particularly lethal in season-saving games. He is so incredibly good that he can’t completely stop even the best defenders in the NBA when he no longer needs to control his speed. If Leonard and Bridges can’t stop him, nobody can stop him. We are looking into the next few decades.

Defensive Masterpiece

The Suns are very good at many things, but if you want to settle for two things that they do better than the other, you can opt for shooting and ball control. The Suns have been an elite shooting team in almost every aspect and the Chris Paul team is extremely protective of the ball. The key to defeating them is usually in interfering with one of these two traits. The Mavericks interfered with both to an absurd degree.

The Suns made just 18 3-pointers in their sixth game. This is the second smallest number in the Monty Williams era. The Suns also recorded 22 turnovers. This is the third most records of the Monty Williams era. Two close milestones in the same game. Now to be fair, the Suns don’t just rely on three points like many other teams do. They are the best midrange shooting team in the NBA and they could still use that shot in this game (like everything else, they had a hard time coming up against the relentless Dallas defense).

But at some point the math works. The Mavericks limited the total number of shots Phoenix could take with all those turnovers, and of the shots they gave up, Dallas took the most valuable shot the team could make. There has been no big sacrifice like the one seen in the Celtics-Bucks series, where Milwaukee sacrificed endless three-point attempts to protect the basket. The Suns scored just 44 points on paint in Game 6, well below the regular season average of 49.8. Dallas has good defenses everywhere. They did great defense where it matters. The result was an explosion.

Stage Setup for Game 7

When LeBron James was in season 4, he swept the seed No. 1 with his final experience and made his NBA debut. Doncic is still more than round 1, but it’s hard to spot any similarities here. The Suns, like the Pistons in 2007, were almost considered lockdown to win this series. But thanks to Doncic’s grace, the Mavericks have a real chance to overthrow a team that has won 12 more than the regular season. And with the Golden State looking impeccable against the injured Grizzlies team, there is a real road ahead. Forming the finals for Dallas.

Doncic doesn’t have to go to the finals of Year 4 to prove his greatness. We all expect him to get there eventually, and expect to do so many times. But the yardstick by which he is rated is different from most players, even most All-Stars. We’re talking about a young man here who has a chance to go down in history as one of the greatest players in NBA history. Those players tend to ignore even our wildest expectations. No one thought that LeBron would make it to the finals in a fourth season. Doncic is as good as himself, but he’s not LeBron yet. If he challenges that legacy, these milestones will give him an advantage.

But ultimately, if Doncic takes another year or two, no one will be able to take their eyes off him. Stakes are much more immediate for Phoenix. Chris Paul is 37 years old. This may not be his last rodeo, but he’s not far from the end. He is averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.5 turns over the last four games. He may have been injured or he may have just gotten old, but chances like this are rare. Paul, who has never won a championship, knows this all too well. He has a home court advantage in Game 7 and throughout the playoffs. There is no guarantee that it will be the same next season. His best chance to win is right now.

And then there’s DeAndre Ayton, who was drafted by Phoenix over Doncic in 2018. He tried to negotiate a maximum contract extension last offseason but failed and is currently set to become a limited free agent for the offseason. He did his best to secure the contract when the Suns won 64 games. The defensive improvement he showed in last year’s final continued, and he’s much more comfortable punishing the small lineup as a scorer. But Dallas choked him in that respect, and even if it wasn’t his fault, losing optics to a player the Phoenix should have drafted will hold Ayton’s head forever. The limited free agent is far more likely to remain, but if Ayton wants to be treated like a phoenix cornerstone, Game 7 could be his last chance to prove he deserves.

This is not the finale. Not many championships yet. But as far as Round 2, Game 7 goes, it will be difficult to ask for much more in terms of immediate and historical interests. Both sides have much more than season here.

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