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Keys to leaving game 7 with a Phoenix Suns victory

Between defending Luka and emulating other stars, there’s lots to look for in the win-or-go-home Sunday night.

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

After the Phoenix Suns lost Game 6 in Dallas on Thursday night, All-Star guard Devin Booker saw the bright side of it.

Two greatest words in sports, but most nerve-wrecking for me and many other fans. To make it less nerve-wrecking, I’ll share some of the less emotional aspects that will go into this game 7 that could swing the game for a win or loss.

For a more historical look at Sunday evening’s matchup, read our John Voita.

To trap or not to trap

Per NBA CourtOptix, Luka Doncic was the 15th most double-teamed player in the first round, averaging 15.7 double-teams per game (28.0% of possessions). Unfortunately, that resulted in 1.37 points per possession, the second-best efficiency (behind Marcus Smart) of the 20 most double-teamed ball-handlers.

Meanwhile, the Suns’ best defense in round one vs. the Pelicans (and second-fewest points allowed all playoffs) came in a trap-heavy gameplan during game 5, a 112-97 win at home. Suns made a point in that game to trap Ingram often, and it resulted in five turnovers from him (two more than any other Pelican) and 10 total steals by the Suns (three from Paul).

Since trapping Doncic seems like an advantage for both teams, it can be tough to determine whether it’ll work in the Suns’ favor. I believe they should, but more based on principle than an on-court reasoning.

If the Suns don’t spend game 7 ultra-aggressive defending Doncic – and at times Brunson and Dinwiddie as well – and lose, they’ll be leaving something in the chamber, having not tried every possible adjustment in the series.

Suns will also want to bounce back from the game 6 performance where Dallas totaled 16 steals, and Phoenix only grabbed 3. Added aggression would help to create those opportunities.

Booker doing a Tatum impression

Booker’s excitement has little room for error with how much Phoenix will rely on him to create in this game 7, and coming off a game with eight turnovers, he’ll have to reign that in a little bit. Fortunately for Booker, another high-volume creator just had exactly the kind of night in a closeout that he’ll almost certainly need.

Jayson Tatum had 46 points on 17-32 shooting for the Boston Celtics in their closeout victory on Friday to force their own game 7. He was decisive in his creation, and was aggressive in finding good shots, especially late in the contest.

If Booker can bring that same level-headed aggression and confidence, then he’ll start to build his own legacy even more.

Role players showing up at home

Crowder and Bridges combined for just two 3PA and three TO; regular season combined averages of 9.2 3PA and 2.4 TO.

As I wrote earlier in the series, wins come a lot easier when those wings – and the ones coming off the bench – are making their shots even close to their average rates.

Elephant in the room

Over his last four games, Chris Paul is averaging just 9.3 points (only 7.0 FGA), 4.5 TO, and 4.3 fouls in his 32.6 minutes per game. It’s a little crazy that this slump is preceded only by a 37th birthday, while there’s a real chance he just became completely washed, I’m not quite there yet. This game 7 is as good a time as any to return to form.

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