Welcome to Part Two of the Key Matchups series. In Round 1 we looked at the matchup of the Phoenix Suns’ premier defender Mikal Bridges against the New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram. Round 2 against the Dallas Mavericks offers a variety of interesting matchups.
Defense against the dynamic Luka Doncic will be key for the Suns, of course. But what interests me in this series is the playmaking duel between Doncic and the Suns’ very own Point God, Chris Paul.
Why it matters:
These two guys are what make these teams go on offense. All due respect, Devin Booker.
Doncic, whom many Suns fans hoped to draft over Deandre Ayton in 2018, posted the highest usage percentage in the league for the second year running this season. In addition to being the Mavericks’ leading scorer at 28.4 points per game, Doncic also posted a career-high 46% assist percentage over the regular season, meaning that something approaching half of all the field goals Dallas made with Doncic on the floor were assisted by the the 23 year-old Slovene.
Paul, at 36, just finished leading the NBA in assists per game, posting a 44.5% assist percentage of his own. At an age where most NBA players have already retired or accepted limited bench roles, CP3 remains one of the premier point guards in the whole world.
Both men are effective runners of the pick and roll, averaging close to a point per possession as the pick and roll ball handler.
Neither man figures to be the primary defender of the other in this series. Paul will probably be mostly individually matched up on Dallas point guard Jalen Brunson, while Doncic will surely get a lot of attention from Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and others...though both will indeed get their shots at each other.
But be that as it may, whichever man can keep his team’s offense running most smoothly and efficiently will be giving his team the best shot at moving on in this quest to be crowned the NBA champions.
The past matchups:
Paul shot poorly against the Mavericks this season, but was a very effective distributor. Leaving aside his sub 52% true shooting percentage in the three contests, Paul compiled 39 assists and just 5 turnovers. And oh, yeah...the Suns went 3-0. So that’s pretty good.
Doncic played in only one of those games, and the Suns HOUNDED him. Did he have 28 points? Yes, he did...but on only 9/23 shooting. And more of concern to this conversation, he had 8 turnovers to go with his 8 assists in the Suns’ 109-101 win Jan. 20. Relive that one here:
NBA matchup data shows that Doncic struggled to overcome the Suns’ interior defense, with 4 of his 8 turnovers generated with Bismack Biyombo and JaVale McGee as his primary defenders. The others, predictably, were generated by Bridges and Paul.
The bottom line:
This is going to be a fun one. I’m so excited for the Suns to beat the Mavericks. I think it’s a good matchup for the Suns, I think the Suns are just the better team, I think this series may actually be less of a headache than the Pelicans were.
But as a basketball fun it will also be fun to see some of the top playmakers in the world going at it in a pressure-packed series. Doncic played okay against the Utah Jazz, certainly not as dynamic as Dallas fans would hope from him. CP3 was amazing against New Orleans, with 68 assists to 9 turnovers and coming through with big shot after big shot.
I think this series will be competitive on an individual game basis, but I think Paul wins this key matchup and the Suns will win the series in five games. Let’s go.
Game one is tonight at 7:00PM AZ time on TNT.