The Suns vs. Mavericks series has gotten spicier by the game.
So far we’ve seen a physical series, punctuated by bouts of pettiness from both sides, as well as some streaky hot play on-court from both teams. Of the six games, three have been decided by 10 points or less, while the other three have been blowouts of 20-plus points.
There’s an old — and likely overused — sports adage that a playoff series doesn’t begin until either opponent is the first to win a road game. Neither team has done that in this series — yet.
The series heads back to the desert for the deciding game, and for all intents and purposes this game is shaping up to be a classic.
A brewing rivalry
These two teams may not be historic rivals, but as this series has progressed the pettiness and trash-talk has escalated to new levels.
There was the incident between a fan and Mavs’ star Luka Doncic in Game 2, then there was the incident in Dallas with Chris Paul’s family and an unruly fan, but the pettiness between players reached a crescendo in Game 5 when Devin Booker took a verbal jab at Doncic after taking a hard foul.
Booker got up and said, “the Luka special” in poking fun at Doncic.
Devin Booker called it the “Luka Special” after getting fouled and lying on the floor pic.twitter.com/Y78CSggDAH
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 11, 2022
Doncic responded to that after the game in his own way.
“Everybody acts tough when they’re up,” he said as he walked to the locker room.
“Everybody acts tough when they’re up” – Luka as the Mavericks leave the court after a 110-80 Suns win pic.twitter.com/uCh4DrSFtf
— ABC15 Sports (@abc15sports) May 11, 2022
There was also the incident between Bismack Biyombo and Marquese Chriss.
Bismack Biyombo and Marquese Chriss were ejected after Chriss appeared not too happy with Biyombo attempting a dunk with about 3 seconds remaining. @JGSports_6 heard Chriss say “That’s bull (expletive)” multiple times before Biyombo got in his face. #RallyTheValley #NBA pic.twitter.com/WBUcCK032p
— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) May 11, 2022
While there were no fireworks in Game 6, the pressure of the moment in a deciding Game 7 may cause some tempers to flare.
Chris Paul’s next act
Prior to Game 5, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd told the media his team was preparing for Booker and Chris Paul, knowing that the Point God, who had struggled for the previous three games, would eventually snap out of his slump.
“We know what’s coming,” Kidd said before tipoff. “So, we have to understand there is no [room to] feel your way into the game. They’re gonna attack, and we have to be prepared for that. We’ve talked about it as a team.”
Well, Paul is still kind of struggling.
He is probably going through the worst four-game of his career since… it’s been so long it’s hard to remember.
In the series’ first two games, Paul was one of his team’s top scoring threats, finishing with a combined 47 points. In Game 6, he had just seven shot attempts and finished with 13 points and four assists.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) May 11, 2022
Paul — and the Suns for that matter — are at their best when they push the tempo and get out in transition. When they’ve done that in this series, they’ve won.
Simple as that.
Luka Doncic, front and center
Doncic has been nothing short of spectacular in these playoffs.
It feels like he’s constantly flirting with a triple-double. He again came close in Game 6, finishing with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
WE ARE ROCKIN’ 🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/qkCbtortOe
— x – Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) May 13, 2022
When the Mavs traded away Kristaps Porzingis, they got rid of their clear No. 2 guy, and many wondered if Doncic on his own was enough to make a deep playoff run. They’ve gotten contributions at various stages from guys like Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith, but they haven’t been as consistent as the Mavs would probably like.
He has been front and center for the Mavs, and they will only go as far as he leads them.
Doncic has played three elimination games to this point of his career. His scoring average in those games? 39.0, the most in NBA history. History suggests Doncic lives for the big moments.