Winning Game 1 of a series is now routine for the Suns. For the sixth time in a row, including their playoff campaign last year, the Arizona players got off to the best start of a series by dismissing the Mavs without too much difficulty. The latter, despite a reduced gap at the end, were led throughout the game and never seemed to be able to make a difference.
The Suns were the first to attack their opponents. The recipe is well known: defend hard to spin in transition. This is what Devin Booker and his family applied to afford a 15-point lead after seven minutes of play (22-7). Already plagued with personal foul worries, the Mavs started by responding with their long-distance address. One man particularly distinguished himself when he entered the game: Maxi Kleber. Thanks to manager Luka Doncic and him, the Texans have picked up a bit (35-25).
We quickly understood that Dallas had less to worry about scoring than defending. The danger really came from everywhere in front. Chris Paul was content to rotate as Deandre Ayton dominated inside while Jae Crowder or Cameron Payne found colors in attack compared to their first lap. The Suns, however, remained unanswered against the festival of Luka Doncic who always found a way to sneak up to the circle. The Slovenian already had… 26 points at the break but his team, with nearly 70 points conceded, remained behind (69-56).
A much less flamboyant second period offensively started with the same problems for the Mavs, still struggling to hinder the Suns’ much better ball circulation. With a less inspired Luka Doncic, the Texans relied on their outside address to stay in touch but the Phoenix defense raised their tone, like this counter from Mikal Bridges on a distant attempt by Reggie Bullock in the corner or violation of 24 seconds obtained.
The locals thus presented themselves with a comfortable lead after three quarters (96-79). This gap was maintained in the following minutes, marked in particular by an interception by JaVale McGee in front of Luka Doncic before going to dunk in “coast-to-coast”. The Suns, however, were guilty of slacking off in the final moments as the visitors continued to play until the end to return to two possessions. A return ultimately without consequence on the final outcome.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– The start gun of the Suns. A classic jumper for Chris Paul in his garden, an alley-oop from Devin Booker towards Mikal Bridges, then a left-handed finish from the same Booker still in transition: Phoenix went 6-0 after only a few seconds of play. This 6- 0 turned into 18-6, then 22-7 after seven minutes of play. Hot starts, with great defensive intensity and fast attacking play, are typical of many games. Except that here, this inaugural gap, around ten points, will be maintained for almost the entire game. This is to say if these first minutes allowed Phoenix to set the tone for the future.
– A relaxation in the last minutes. This sense of mastery that emerged in the Suns’ game for three quarters, however, was called into question at the end of the game. While Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie found some semblance of address and Luka Doncic increased his points quota, the Suns attack came to a halt. On the same possession, yet marked by two offensive rebounds, Chris Paul then Devin Booker missed the target at 3-points by being open. Below, Deandre Ayton missed four finishes. The Suns, who have long shot at 60% success, including 50% from afar, have thus lowered their percentages. Without however being really scared in the last seconds because Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges ensured the perfect evening for their team at free throws.
✅ Deandre Ayton. Despite his failures in the last quarter, the pivot signed a great game by dominating Dwight Powell. He took advantage of the lack of protection in the opposing circle to score at will. We note his good agreement with Devin Booker who sent him several times to the “alley-oop” by trapping the defense of the Mavs.
✅ Cam Johnson. We could have mentioned the majority of the players of the five of the Suns but the finalist for the trophy of the best 6th man was also an important contributor. Confident with his outside shot, he signed his best game so far in these playoffs.
✅ Luka Doncic. Huge performance from the Slovenian who, after his first half of fire (26 points), had to slow down in the third quarter before starting again when we thought the game was over. He came close to the triple-double but fished with five loose balls, including several passes where his teammates did not follow his idea which ended up in the stands.
✅ Maxi Kléber. His 3/3 from 3-pointers in the first quarter gave his team a big boost. The German, also the author of a big counter on Landry Shamet, scored his five award-winning baskets shortly after coming into play before going out for the rest of the game.
⛔ Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie. 21 points at 9/24 on cumulative shots… And again, without the last moments, this ratio would have been much worse. The two offensive lieutenants of Luka Doncic passed by. We do not know if the first was disturbed by having been authoritatively countered by Devin Booker (sanctioned by a technical foul for having chambered) at the start of the game but he missed a bunch of finishes near the circle. His sidekick, coming from the bench, was much less enterprising in attack.
51-0. Last night, the Suns fueled an impressive statistic at home: they have never lost this season when they lead after three quarters, or 51 wins (including playoffs). It is obviously the best team in the league in this area. The record belongs to the Lakers with 60 games in a row.
Game 2: in Phoenix, on the night of Wednesday May 4 to Thursday May 5, at 04:00.