Dallas, Texas — The Dallas Mavericks’ magic numbers Sunday afternoon were six, 20 and 10.
Six players scored in double-figures, and the Mavericks made 20 3-pointers — 14 of which came in the first half — en route to a 111-101 Game 4 win over the Phoenix Suns at the American Airlines Center. And the player wearing number 10 in Dallas was a factor in everything.
“We did a great job of attacking,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “When the ball touches the paint, it’s either a layup or a three. But the biggest thing is these guys are playing hard. And it’s really cool to watch.”
The two bearing the responsibility for Dallas’ onslaught from three were Dorian Finney-Smith and Davis Bertans. Finney-Smith scored 24 points, going 8-12 from three. And after Finney-Smith found his groove, Bertans did his best impersonation, scoring 12 points off the bench — all of which came off 3-point shots (4-6). Though both played well, it’s without a doubt that Finney-Smith’s production was of absolute value to Dallas in Game 4.
Dorian Finney-Smith’s big night
Phoenix struggled to close out to the corners, as Luka Doncic, who tallied 26 points and 11 assists, often commanded the attention of two or three Phoenix defenders. In scheming up an answer for everything Doncic does on the offensive end, Phoenix gave up enough space to let Finney-smith catch fire like a California forest in July. He finished the game one 3-pointer shy of Jason Terry’s franchise playoff record of nine.
“When he’s playing like that, when he’s not hesitating and catch-and-shoot, he’s as good as anyone,” Kidd said.
It’s fitting that Finney-Smith, an undrafted free agent back in 2016, who just this season signed a $52 million contract extension to stay in Dallas, hit some of the biggest shots that broke the spirit and back of Phoenix, while Chris Paul floundered in foul trouble and frustration.
“He is just big time,” Jalen Brunson, who scored 18 points, said. “He’s one of those players that just works on his game and does everything.”
From guarding Devin Booker to rebounding (eight), to disrupting Paul’s offensive flow — often picking him up full court — Finney-Smith made Games 3 and 4 go Dallas’ way. He wouldn’t allow it to happen any other way.
“We made it hard for them,” Finney-Smith said. “We made them tired.”
Despite the hot Game 4, Finney-Smith still thinks in terms of “we.” He’s always seen the game as a team-first event. Yet, without him, where would Dallas be? If Doncic is the on-court leader, the center of the Mavericks’ universe, Finney-Smith is the heart. He’s the reminder that for as much talent a given player possesses, you can’t make up for the effort it takes to be great.
Whether it’s leading Dallas in minutes played or 3-pointers made, Finney-Smith is the tangential point to Doncic’s heliocentric-ness. He’s the outlet that makes everyone else’s job easy. He’s blue-collar, and his ambivalent confidence allows everyone else to bask in the virtue of games won when he plays with the confidence of someone that knows he can do no wrong on the floor.
Heading into Game 5
Dallas won two games on its home court. It did what it’s supposed to do. What was surprising was how the Mavericks limited Paul’s effectiveness in both Games 3 and 4. The Hall of Famer turned the ball over seven times in Game 3 and fouled out in Game 4.
Odds are, Paul won’t have another game like that again in the series. In Phoenix, the Mavericks are going to need the best of Doncic, Brunson, Finney-Smith and maybe a little luck. But after winning two games not many thought Dallas could, someone ought to check if a black cat crossed Phoenix’s path or a leprechaun landed in Dallas’ hat.
Maybe, it’s just Finney-Smith.
“We know they are going to make adjustments,” Finney-Smith said of the series shifting back to Phoenix. “We got to take what we did tonight and go up a couple notches.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.