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After Game 5 loss, Mavs must once again come up big at home versus Suns

The Dallas Mavericks still haven’t been able to solve the Phoenix Suns in Arizona, which puts them down 3-2 with the series moving back to Dallas for Game 6.
Credit: AP
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to get off a shot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

DALLAS — The Mavericks have their collective backs against the wall as they head back to Dallas for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. 

The series with the Phoenix Suns has been a rollercoaster of emotions, with the team looking at a likely sweep before evening the series when it came time to switch buildings. Dallas will be hoping for that same home cooking on Thursday, with a side of revenge as the series has become increasingly hostile. 

Dallas came out in Game 5 looking like they expected the smoke after back-to-back home wins against the No. 1 seed in the conference, but the Mavs were able to match the Phoenix intensity early on as they led after one quarter of action. 

While the game continued to be close through the first half, the second half proved unkind to Dallas as the Suns scored more than double the Mavs output in the third quarter, 33-14. By the time the game clock showed all zeros, the Suns had put Dallas through the ringer for a 110-80 Game 5 loss. 

Devin Booker and Luka Doncic have been jawing at each other all series and that only ramped up on Tuesday night. The tension is sure to continue as the Suns have made it their mission to target Doncic’s emotional reactions as they try to mitigate the Mavericks’ best player. 

When the shots are falling, these taunts are easy to let roll off the skin, but as the rest of the team collectively struggles, Doncic’s shot selection has continued to be more Luka Magic attempts than careful dissection. 

Doncic has attempted 125 shots in the series and is averaging 32 points per contest, but he is also just 14 of 46 from deep. The paltry 30% connection rate poses two concerns from the same problem, Doncic feels these desperation heaves serve more of a chance of providing production than that of a potentially open teammate, and the other is the fatigue of carrying an offense single-handedly.

Those that bemoan the Mavs’ offensive drive that eventually die on long Doncic step-back three-point attempts should take into account that the help just hasn’t been there on the road.

Dwight Powell continues to struggle to earn the minutes he’s being allotted, but Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith also disappeared after being a focal point of the home games. Bullock and Powell were collectively held scoreless on the night, and Finney-Smith added just 8 points after a starring role in the Game 4 Mother’s day win.

The Mavs emptied their bench as the regular rotation had a horrid shooting night, with Davis Bertans (10 points in 19 minutes) being the only bench player with more than 4 points. Bertans (7.0 PPG) is now exceeding Spencer Dinwiddie’s (6.8 PPG) offensive production during this series in 51 fewer minutes played. The Latvian forward is shooting 58% from deep and you can expect to see his usage increase as the team returns to the AAC. 

For the Mavs to have a shot at a series win in the desert, they will need to look back on what propelled them to victory in games 3 and 4. They will need their perimeter shooters to knock down open shots when Doncic or Jalen Brunson create opportunities for them. They will need to continue harassing the Phoenix shot creators, with a commitment to defense especially required from Doncic. 

Lastly, Jason Kidd and staff will need to adjust just as Phoenix has adjusted, with Phoenix closing gaps from games 3 and 4 and coming up with a different coaching plan on their return home. 

With a successful execution of even a portion of those, Dallas can get one step closer to returning to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2011.

Do the Mavericks have it in them to send the series back to Phoenix for a Game 7? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.

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