DALLAS — It’s the city of Dallas versus the Suns.
For the first time in the Luka Doncic era, the Dallas Mavericks got out of the first round, and now Dallas joins Phoenix, Golden State, and Memphis in vying for the right to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.
The match-ups in this series are a basketball fan’s delight with Chris Paul continuing his chase for the title that has alluded his eventual Hall of Fame career, and a battle between young and marketable star guards Devin Booker and Luka Doncic.
With both teams built with a title in mind, there’s the added pressure of championship aspirations.
Doncic (29.0 PPG, 55% FG) cemented his first playoff series win on his third try and on one good leg. Dallas’ superstar debuted in Game 4 of the series against Utah after quickly rehabbing through a calf injury suffered in the regular season finale.
Meanwhile, Booker (23.0 PPG, 50% 3P) also navigated injuries to stretch the defense in Phoenix’s first round win over New Orleans.
The Suns bring perimeter defense in addition to the mid-range shooting of Booker and Paul to the fight, a stark contrast to the Jazz who could rely on neither. Mikal Bridges – runner-up for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year – will have the task of trying to take the ball out of Doncic’s hands or shutting down his good friend Jalen Brunson, a teammate with the 2018 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats.
Brunson will need to continue his electric play so far this postseason for Doncic to get a chance to operate as the Mavs look to weave between the defense. Bridges is an elite level defender and the Mavs will need to maximize the output of whichever player Phoenix elects to leave to Jae Crowder and Paul, though neither are a slouch defensively either.
Meanwhile, the Mavs’ own defensive ace Dorian Finney-Smith will have to contend with a similar problem, deciding between contesting Booker or Paul in a game of pick your poison.
The Mavericks frontcourt will have to contend offensively with Deandre “I was picked ahead of Luka” Ayton, with former Mav Javale McGee continuing the aggression when Ayton takes a breather. Maxi Kleber will need to be a significant threat from outside to pull Ayton and company away from the rim and open up the lane for the Dallas guards to feast.
With the Point God on one side and the face of Gen Z basketball on the other, the Mavericks and Doncic will look to write the final chapter to Chris Paul’s championship journey. Spoilers: They hope it’s a bad ending for the Suns.
Do you see the Mavericks coming out on top in Game 1? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.