After beating the Dallas Mavericks 110-80 on Tuesday night to grab a 3-2 series lead, the Phoenix Suns are one win away from a berth in the Western Conference finals. The Suns took advantage of a strong second-half performance, with four players scoring in double digits, highlighted by Devin Booker’s 28 points and seven rebounds. Deandre Ayton scored 20 points as the Suns worked to get him more involved on offence, and Mikal Bridges ended up with 14 points after breaking out of his shooting slump.
Despite a good first half, Dallas fell behind by double digits in the first few minutes of the second half and never recovered. The Suns opened the game wide open in the third quarter thanks to poor shooting and 12 turnovers, and the Mavericks are now facing elimination in Game 6 on Thursday night.
Here are three key takeaways from Game 5 of the Suns-Mavericks series.
- Suns revived the magic from the beginning of the series.
In back-to-back losses to Dallas, Phoenix looked like a shell of its former self. In Game 3, Chris Paul had uncharacteristic turnovers, then in Game 4, he fouled out completely. While playing at home, the Mavericks looked every bit as good as the Suns, but in Game 5 on Tuesday, the Suns reminded Dallas — and the rest of the NBA — why they were the greatest team in the regular season.
While the teams were evenly matched in the first half, the Suns took control in the third quarter and never looked back. In the third quarter, Phoenix outscored Dallas 33-14, restricting the Mavericks to just 6-for-16 shooting and forcing 12 turnovers. Dallas looked absolutely out of sorts on offence, settling for weak shots as a result of Phoenix’s suffocating defence, and completely powerless on the other end as Booker and Bridges continued to cook after halftime.
It was exactly what the Suns needed after two poor road performances. On defence, they improved their rotation to the open man and reduced Doncic’s ability to drive to the hoop and kick it out to the perimeter. Without such kick-outs to players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Maxi Kleber, the Mavericks were forced to win the Suns with just Doncic, something they failed to do in the first two games of the series.
- Dallas’ supporting cast was missing.
Finney-Smith, Bullock, and Kleber were all shooting well over 40% from long for the Mavericks before Game 5. On Tuesday night, the three players went 3-for-12, with Bullock missing all three of his tries. Dallas isn’t going to win many games with all three of those players suffering, and the Mavericks’ offence stalling in the second half was simply a part of the bigger story.
Dallas appeared as if it had forgotten the formula that had won them the previous two games, with missed open looks and stupid errors. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Mavericks’ 12 turnovers in the third quarter were the most in a playoff quarter since the Knicks in 2012. That’s downright revolting.
It wasn’t simply the supporting cast. While Doncic ended the game with 28 points, he struggled once again from beyond the arc, going 2-for-8 from long range. He’s now 3-for-18 from long range in the last two games. Doncic had 11 rebounds but only two assists, reverting to his previous pattern of not fully trusting his teammates, as Dallas head coach Jason Kidd has mentioned several times this season.
The Mavericks only had nine assists Tuesday night after closing Game 4 with 22. That’s an unacceptably low number for a team with a brilliant passer like Doncic. That low assist total reflects Dallas’ lack of ball movement, and it can’t continue to play the way it did Tuesday night in Game 6, which is an elimination game.