What an ugly, foul-filled game. It was really in the balance, as close as 89-86 early in the fourth, but then Chris Paul decided to take over the game for the Phoenix Suns like he’s done so many times in his career and for the fourth time in this playoffs alone.
He made shots, got assists, a steal and suddenly the Mavericks were down 17 and wondering what the hell happened.
CHRIS PAUL HAPPENED. Paul had 14 points, 2 assists and a steal in the first six minutes of the fourth as the Suns lead ballooned from 7 to 17.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Devin Booker. He made a pair of back-breaking threes that left the Mavericks slumping, calling another timeout, down 21 with 4:41 left with the score 116-95.
Devin Booker had 30 points and 4 assists, Chris Paul had 28 points and 8 assists. Jae Crowder had 15 points and 7 rebounds. The Suns won just about all the stats.
Suns are now up 2-0 in this series over the Dallas Mavericks.
Want to know how it unfolded? Here you go...
No change in starters or reserves, as far as active/inactive anyway. Let’s see how rotations play out. I expect to see more small-ball from Dallas, since that worked for them in the 4th quarter on Monday night. DA gonna have to make that a bad idea.
Dallas immediately going full-court press on Chris Paul, even from the opening tip. Reggie Bullock gets the assignment. Paul gets it off to Booker, Suns run a play and score easily (Bridges). Then Luka throws it away, Bridges makes a three, Powell misses a lob, DA slam dunk and... 7-0 Suns.
Dallas didn’t score until Luka finally took it upon himself to take a paint shot and it went in. 9-2 Suns. On the next possession, Booker makes his patented fadeaway, get fouled in the act, and lay on the floor staring up as it goes in. 12-2 Suns.
Dallas keeps trying the full-court press on whoever brings it up, Booker or CP. And it keeps not working for them. Suns getting any shot they want.
Jalen Brunson having trouble with the Suns size, collecting two early fouls again against the Suns as he gets caught trying to defend in the post on their switching. In comes Spencer Dinwiddie.
Dallas struggling to get consistent scores, so Luka is starting to do his thing again, driving into the paint to score or pass out. First couple times now, it’s putting up the shot himself. Not the same back side open threes as last game so far.
Suns up 24-16 before bench players start filtering in for Suns. The Cams are first. Luka started doing everything himself, including a wild spinning spinning spinning thing on Cameron Johnson that somehow ended as an and-one.
Mavs now have Kleber and Bertans in for spacing as Luka means to go to work in the paint. He squares up Cameron Johnson to draw the second foul already.
Booker takes the bench for a rest with the Suns up 30-21. Luka is still out there — might play all 48 this time?
Suns offense next three times: three turnovers (two offensive fouls, lost-ball turnover). Dallas goes on a 7-0 run before Landry Shamet scores just before the first quarter buzzer.
Suns up 32-28 after one. Luka played all 12 minutes, with 14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers. Suns have six players scoring at least a bucket, led by Deandre Ayton with 9 points.
Luka finally sat to start the second, with Brunson and Dinwiddie out there to handle the ball. Dallas decided to be quite physical, but in the wrong way. They committed five fouls in the first three minutes of the quarter, putting the Suns in the penalty with 9 minutes left in the quarter. Guess who drew the fifth foul? You guessed, rip-through by Chris Paul.
Dallas is staying in this one by making their threes, 6-of-12 so far. The Suns, on the other hand, are not generating any threes (only 3 so far, and none since mid-first quarter). Mavericks up 43-38.
That’s a 22-8 run for the Mavericks, highlighted by FIVE offensive fouls
committed called in the second quarter alone. And the one foul that wasn’t called, Booker was clearly fouled on the arm on a jumper.
Dallas is really trying to muck up this game, and make their threes along the way, to win it. So far, it’s gotten the Suns (second unit anyway) a bit flustered. That was a bad run by bench guys. (not all bench, some starters, but clearly the Suns starters are okay together).
Dallas’ 7th three pointer (in 14 tries — that’s really good guys) puts them up 48-43. Suns D is in disarray, with Luka now driving into the paint and creating shots for everyone.
The ref-fest is just exhausting. I can’t believe how many fouls are getting called — 15 in the second quarter alone, with 3 minutes left.
The Suns could not find their rhythm again, but fought on both ends to keep it a game until they could unlock again.
Luka went Bis-hunting with Ayton and JaVale McGee both having three fouls. Monty just really loves having a center out there. Luka made a pair of threes over Bis, and the Mavericks kept the lead. They replaced Bis with Ish Wainright, and he hit another step-back three.
At halftime, the Mavericks are up 60-58. Luka Doncic has been incredible, with 24 points and 6 assists. The Mavericks have made 10 of 20 threes. This is one of those games the Suns wanted to avoid — giving Luka his shots AND his assists.
Let’s see how the second half plays out.
The Suns took the lead back on their first offensive possession with a Booker three, then made another Book three the next time down. Suns up 64-60 to the delight of the crowd.
Then the refs decided enough was enough. They gave the 4th foul to 4 different players in a span of 42 seconds — two Suns and two Mavs. Ayton, McGee, Finney-Smith and Powell.
Ayton’s was a flagrant on a breakaway after a steal on Luka, where Bridges fed him on the run and he turned into Powell and BAM right in the kisser. A few seconds later, Powell got his fourth.
McGee was the only one of the four who stayed in the game, which unlocked good-McGee: a block on a three-point shot and a pair of dunks on the other end and then a helluva pass to a cutting Mikal for a layup. Suns up 76-68.
On the next possession, the Mavericks used up the whole shot clock, but turned it into a 4-point play when Bullock made a three as JaVale committed his fifth foul off-ball. 76-72 Suns.
Another broken-play three from the Mavs and they’re back to 76-75.
So much going wrong for the Suns in this one, I can see it going either way from here on out. Suns just can’t get out of their own way, and are leaving the Mavericks open for way too many threes to keep them alive (13-30 now).
Suns up 84-80 with 1:47 left in the third but anything can happen... and the bench is about to come in again. Though they’ve already gotten run with the Ayton foul trouble.
Suns up 89-83 after three and that feels like a lucky break. They’re shooting well, including shooting themselves in the foot. 59/41/89/100 splits (FG/3P/FT/Foot).
Three Suns starters in there to start the 4th (Paul, Book, Bridges) with Cameron Johnson and Bismack Biyombo.
Then Chris Paul did Chris Paul things. Scored on a drive on Luka. Shook a pair of Mavs out of their shorts on middys. Stole from Luka, threw up an alley to Bridges, got an offensive foul called on Brunson....
Before he was done, Paul had 14 points, 2 assists and a steal in six minutes and the Suns lead grew from 7 to 17.
Booker made a pair of threes then, and the Mavericks dejectedly called timeout with 4:41 left, looking at a 116-95 deficit.
Mavericks coach put all the backups in at that point, giving up the game. A Booker three later, and the Suns did the same.
All that’s left is riding out the clock...