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Luka vs Booker: Round 7 on the docket after Mavs even series

The Dallas Mavericks held serve with a blowout home victory in Game 6 but the final hurdle to get the Western Conference Finals will be beating the Suns in Phoenix.

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks are one victory away from the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Phoenix Suns 113-86 in Game 6 to tie the semifinal series at three games apiece against the proclaimed best team in the West.

For a team that entered the season with a complete front office and leadership overhaul, traded away their most expensive player at the deadline, and was without their franchise player for a good portion of the first round, getting this far has been quite a statement.

With the series progressing in physicality and verbal taunts, Luka Doncic has been dead-set on making any Suns player that talks trash at him look ridiculous. Doncic more than backed up his own taunts and mean mugs with an electric performance in Game 6 to keep Dallas’ season afloat.

Doncic led the Mavericks with 33 points and 11 rebounds, just missing another triple-double with eight assists on the night. Doncic’s playoff breakout right-hand man Jalen Brunson added 18 points and led the team with a +24 in 35 minutes of action while the entire Suns team finished in the negatives.

Defensive lynchpin Dorian Finney-Smith had a quiet night offensively but continued to stifle the Suns, teaming with Reggie Bullock to lock up the All-Star Phoenix guards, with Devin Booker (-19) and Chris Paul (-14) struggling to figure out the Mavs’ defensive gameplan.

With Brunson and Doncic leading the charge, the Dallas shooters took full advantage of their looks. Bullock brought the buckets back after an off-game in the Valley, lighting up the Suns behind the arc and adding 19 points in the Dallas win. Spencer Dinwiddie showed his shooting stroke, going 5 of 7 from deep and scoring all 15 of his points on threes.

Perhaps most critical to the win was Dallas’ ability to hold possession at home, as they committed only 6 turnovers on the night. On the other side of the court, a shell-shocked Suns squad cooked up a Booker and Paul special with 13 turnovers between the star guards and 22 as a team.

Now the Mavs head back to Arizona with their confidence at an all-time high, looking to beat the number No. 1 seed in the Western Conference one last time. In what could be a defining moment in the Luka Doncic era during an instant-classic series, a Mavs win in Phoenix on Saturday would be their first win in the desert since 2019.

To accomplish that goal, Dallas will need to bring the defensive intensity that they have cultivated on their home court for one last run at the Suns guards. Phoenix hasn’t lost on their home court since April 19 against New Orleans and finished the regular season 32-9, a 78% home winning percentage, which was tops in the league.

One would think this obstacle would stress out a young roster that is experiencing the Western Conference semis for the first time. Yet the Mavericks, and especially Doncic, have shown again and again that the bright lights of the biggest stage do not scare them off.

Doncic has been feeding off the negativity and physicality from the Suns and enters Game 7 ranked 2nd all-time in playoff scoring per game, trailing only Michael Jordan. There are times when stats can be manipulated to express a certain view of a player or team, but that one is pretty undeniable. Luka is in rare form with how he is performing when the stakes are at their highest.

Both teams have been doing their scouting and vigorously adjusting to each other with each passing game, and now they have reached the last checkpoint. The series is tied 3-3, and one game remains to decide who gets to advance to the Western Conference Finals and continue the journey for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Do you think the Mavericks can overcome the Suns in Phoenix to take the series in Game 7? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.