There was a point midway through the fourth quarter where all Jason Kidd could do was rub his head in frustration.
Who could blame him?
What once was a tightly contested game, the Dallas Mavericks down six points with eight minutes left to play, quickly blew open thanks to Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s fourth-quarter foray. Luka Doncic had 35 points. It didn’t matter. Dallas’ second-leading scorer was Reggie Bullock, who scored 16 points, which wasn’t going to get it done against the defending Western Conference champions. In fact, nothing Dallas did was enough.
“It was a six-point game,” Kidd said. “We had them going into the fourth quarter, but we just lost focus. We found a way to beat ourselves.”
What transpired Wednesday night was the coronation of the truisms everyone ignored heading into the series. The Mavericks are outmanned and maxed out. The Phoenix Suns are too talented and too deep. A playoff matchup made in hell.
The result of this unfortunate equation for Dallas? A disappointing 129-109 loss to Phoenix in Game 2 and a 2-0 series lead for the Suns, in games that have been far less competitive than originally thought, as the series shifts to Dallas.
“We did everything we are supposed to do,” Kidd said. “When you look at CP and Book, they took turns, and we had no answers.”
Need more from the others
Don’t ask Doncic to do more. That won’t work. He is averaging 38 points per game in the second round anyway.
“He had a great game,” Kidd said. “No one else showed. We can’t win with just him, not at this time of the year.”
Where Dallas needs more is from the other guards: Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie. The two, touted as the answer to Dallas’ need for a secondary ball-handler alongside Doncic, have come up small. Against a team that plays defense — no offense to the Utah Jazz — both have struggled immensely.
Brunson shot 3-12 in Game 2, after going 6-16 in game one. If you are doing the math, he is shooting 32 percent from the field in the series through the first two games.
Dinwiddie has played at about the same level. He shot 3-10 in Game 2 and 3-8 in Game 1. For the series, he’s shooting 33 percent, a number that is a far cry from the dominance he was playing with during the weeks directly after the trade deadline.
“We got to get JB and Spencer in rhythm and get them good shots heading into Game 3,” Kidd said. “We got to get other guys involved to help. Right now it has just been [Luka].”
The ugly fourth quarter
Outmanned, Dallas stands puzzled. No matchup neutralizes Paul and Booker’s immense offensive proclivities. The two scored 28 and 30 points respectively. And as a team, Phoenix shot 84 percent from the field in the fourth quarter alone.
The Mavericks were at the Suns’ mercy. And unlike Game 1, where Phoenix let Dallas off the mat, this time, Paul and Booker stepped on Dallas’ throat — unrelentingly. They did what championship-level players on championship-level teams do — win the games they are supposed to.
Dallas and Doncic are still learning.
“It’s the first time in this situation,” Doncic said. “They got to win four, so we believe. We are going to go home, our crowd is amazing, so we believe.”
Believe all you want, but the eyes don’t always lie. There are levels to the NBA and Phoenix is in a class of its own — one that Dallas is still trying to reach.
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Feature image via Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.