Phoenix Suns face the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Western Conference semifinal in the NBA Western Conference semifinals. In the first round, Phoenix and Dallas defeated the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, respectively.
The Phoenix Suns (64-18)
The Suns were not affected by a post-Finals hangover. They dominated the league from the outset, winning eight games more than any other club, and four of their defeats came after claiming the No. 1 seed. From top to bottom, their roster is flawlessly crafted. The NBA Phoenix Suns’ top backcourt is Chris Paul and Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, are overachievers in 3-and-D roles, Deandre Ayton is one of the league’s top centers. Last season, Phoenix’s main issue was a backup center, which the front office handled well by giving JaVale McGee 11 minutes per night.
The Phoenix Suns needed Paul to extend his prime for another year and the young guys around him to enter theirs. As seen by his 14-for-14 performance in shutting out the Pelicans, Phoenix Suns, Paul may be better than ever. Booker was a top-five MVP contender. All he could to earn a maximum rookie contract extension after the season.
The Phoenix Suns haven’t gotten off to a fast start in these playoffs. Booker hurt his hamstring 25 minutes into Game 2 of their first-round series. And when he returned in Game 6, his influence was minimal except for a clutch 3-pointer in the waning minutes. The 36-win Pelicans gave the Phoenix Suns. In addition, they all could handle it, scoring 115.6 points per 100 possessions against the Phoenix Suns’ third-ranked defense.
The Mavericks Dallas (52-30)
Luka Doncic worked his way into condition this season, and the Mavericks followed suit. Spans was a Defensive Player of the Year finalist. By February, Ayton did Dallas had given up on the Kristaps Porzingis experiment, swapping him for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.
Moreover, while everything was going on, first-year Dallas head coach Jason Kidd was molding a top-10 defense out of Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Maxi Kleber. And a team full of players who did not have a reputation for being defensive.
Doncic ran the heliocentric attack and had a team of solid role players around him. Jalen Brunson and Dinwiddie split secondary playmaking responsibilities. Except for Dwight Powell. Everyone else in the rotation spaces the floor for them. They are dangerous as long as Doncic produces at an MVP level.
All of these combined to make Dallas’ performance versus Utah so unusual. In contrast, Doncic was out with a calf injury. However, the Mavericks seized a 2-1 first-round series lead thanks to Brunson’s transformation into an excellent scorer against Utah’s poor perimeter defense. They almost allowed the Jazz back into the series. After Doncic returned, all that stood between the Jazz and Game 7 was an errant wide-open 3-pointer by Bojan Bogdanovic.