Suns vs. Mavericks series preview, best bet
It's been over two years since the Mavericks last won against the Suns. They've dropped nine straight contests to their Western Conference rival ahead of their second-round series. Can they win four games in seven tries to pull off a massive upset, or will Phoenix come one step closer to avenging the gut-wrenching end to its 2020-21 season?
No. 1 Suns (-280) vs. No. 4 Mavericks (+230)
|TEAM||RECORD||ATS||H2H||NET RATING||SERIES LINE|
|Suns||68-20||48-40||3-0||+7.5 (1st)||-1.5 (-143)|
|Mavericks||56-32||52-34-2||0-3||+3.5 (7th)||+1.5 (+110)|
In a postseason marred by injuries to this point, these two teams are finally healthy after ailments to their leading scorers nearly derailed their chances at a second-round berth. Both survived and should be at full strength heading into this matchup; that clearly benefits the defending West champs.
The Suns followed up last year's NBA Finals bid with a dominant regular season, winning a franchise-record 64 games and earning the distinction as the only top-five team in offensive (114.2) and defensive rating (106.8). That came despite Devin Booker and Chris Paul playing in just 57 contests together, with Phoenix owning a 48-9 record (84.2%) with both in tow.
This group was tested once again in Round 1 when Booker went down with a hamstring injury in Game 2. Two games later, the series was tied after a 15-point Pelicans win that threatened the Suns' title hopes. That's when the strength and depth of this roster shone through: Mikal Bridges dropped 31 points on 17 shots in a Game 5 win, while Chris Paul scored 33 on 14-of-14 shooting - the best performance from the field in NBA postseason history - to put the series away.
Booker played 32 minutes in that series-clinching victory, and while he wasn't his usual self (13 points) in that one, he still finished the series shooting 50% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc. He'll benefit from the four-day layoff ahead of Game 1 in Phoenix, where he dropped 31 points in a half in his last game action at Footprint Center.
Luka Doncic is back for the Mavericks, too. He was healthy enough to score 29 points per game to close out the Jazz in the final three games of that first-round matchup. Doncic is a legitimate matchup nightmare for any opponent as the fulcrum of Dallas' offense, though the Suns limited him to 28 points on 9-of-23 shooting - including 2-of-9 from deep - in his only contest against them in the regular season.
Can Jalen Brunson lessen the load of the NBA's leader in usage rate? The fourth-year guard was a revelation in the first round (27.8 points per game), carrying the Mavericks when Doncic was sidelined. Still, he did much of that damage against Utah's suspect perimeter defenders, whose deficiencies were masked by Rudy Gobert's defensive heroics in the regular season before being exposed in the playoffs.
Phoenix boasts elite perimeter defenders in Paul and Bridges as well as a capable interior defender in Deandre Ayton. The Suns also have the size to frustrate Brunson (6-1) by swarming him with the likes of Booker (6-5), Jae Crowder (6-6), and Cameron Johnson (6-8), much like they did to Brandon Ingram in the first round. Conversely, Dallas lacks the depth at center to handle Ayton (6-11), who's quietly scored 20.5 per contest on a ridiculous 70% shooting this postseason.
In the end, the Suns present too many problems for the Mavericks on both ends of the court, as they showed with a three-game sweep in the regular season. Even if Dallas manages to keep Booker in check, which is a tough ask in its own right, Phoenix has too many secondary stars to corral across an entire series. I wouldn't blame anyone for sprinkling a few bucks on this matchup to end in five games or less (+120).
Pick: Suns -1.5 wins (-143)
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