I’ve often said those first three games of the Bubble games will be most important for the Suns to set the tone for the rest of the sked, and the Suns will likely play the Mavericks twice in those games. The league is trying to match each team’s original next-eight-games slate as close as possible, and that’s what the Suns were facing.
How did the Suns fare against the 40-27 Mavericks this season?
On November 29, the Suns lost 120-113 at home. Deandre Ayton did not play in that one, while Luka Doncic racked up a 42 point near-triple-double. Nine different Mavericks made at least one three-pointer, including Tim Hardaway Jr. nailing 6-of-9.
Ayton DID play on January 28, and the Suns won 133-104 in Dallas. Ayton exploded for 31 points on 13-15 shooting with 9/1/2/1 in only 29 minutes of play as the Suns blew the doors off the healthy Mavericks. Most of the Suns starters did not even appear in the 4th quarter. I mean, Ty freaking Jerome had 12 points and 3 assists in the game. That’s how much garbage time was available.
Some of Ayton’s dominance was against Kristaps Porzingis, who will have even more chances to defend Ayton in a continued season because of Dwight Powell’s injury.
Deandre Ayton directly matched up against Kristaps Porzingis for 3 minutes on offense and 3 minutes on defense this season. The results:— Xin Varlock (@XinNBA) June 23, 2020
Ayton on O: 13 points on 5/6 FG, 3/3 FT
Ayton on D: 3 points on 1/5 FG, 2 turnovers
Don’t believe the numbers? Check out the plays for yourself.
And it’s not just Porzingis that Ayton defends well.
Deandre Ayton is a nightmare for offensive players. Here's how he ranked in holding opponents below their FG% avgs:— Xin Varlock (@XinNBA) May 30, 2020
- All shots: -6.2%, 9th (295 qualified)
- 2-pointers: -7.9%, 9th (of 111)
- 3-pointers: -3.3%, 17th (of 114)
Defense Highlights Pt1: https://t.co/H9ECb4fF5b
Want to watch those defensive highlights closer? Xin got you covered on that.
Of course, Porzingis is not the only Maverick who will match up against Ayton.
Other Mavs big men who will get a chance against Ayton are Willie Cauley-Stein, Maxi Kleber and Boban Marjanovic. My guess is that WCS will get the most chances of all of them. You won’t be surprised to learn that Ayton has outplayed WCS in individual matchups in 2018-19 (17 minutes of game time over 4 games), though they hardly saw each other in 2019-20 (1:28 of game time).
The key to beating the Mavericks could very well come down to Ayton needing to dominate the game. Booker will likely offset Luka’s stats, and as long as Hardaway doesn’t make 6 of 9 threes, the Suns should be all right.