Ahead of Game 7, the Dallas Mavericks appear to have the Phoenix Suns figured out.
The Mavericks have thoroughly dominated Phoenix when playing in Dallas. Game 6 wasn’t any different. And if Dallas wants to continue its level of excellence on the road in Game 7 on Sunday, it has to win the ShotQuality score in the same fashion it did in Game 6.
On Thursday night, Dallas beat Phoenix in the ShotQuality score, 116-95. The 21-point margin is the largest of the playoffs thus far. And with the actual score of the game being 113-86, it’s evident in the ShotQuality score, which uses an algorithm to calculate 90 variables to quantify the quality of a team’s possessions, that the Mavericks’ defense — which forced 22 turnovers — was a driving factor in generating great offensive looks.
“We won this game on the defensive end, and now we have another game,” Luka Doncic, who scored 33 points in Game 6, said. “It’s fun. It’s the playoffs, and we are going to give our everything.”
The Mavericks win Game 6’s ShotQuality score by 21 points, the biggest margin of the playoffs so far!
22 turnovers for Phoenix to just 6 for Dallas was a major factor in this lopsided SQ score. Will the Mavs keep the momentum rolling for a Game 7 win on the road? pic.twitter.com/cWLJlmvf1W
— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) May 13, 2022
What does Dallas need to do to win Game 7?
A positive result on Sunday depends on if Dallas can defend with the same ferocity as it did on Thursday night.
In Game 6, Doncic claimed four steals, finally showing some pride on the defensive end in the series.
Meanwhile, Reggie Bullock defended Devin Booker with excellence — never letting him get too comfortable, and limiting Booker to 19 points on 35 percent field goal shooting.
“I knew we were going to make some adjustments, but it was just a game plan the coaches put together,” Bullock said of defending Booker. “It is just another assignment for me. He is a good player. He is a tough player. I just tried to make things tough for him.”
Bullock, while defending Booker feverishly, contributed 19 points of his own and made five 3-pointers. He was quintessential in winning Game 6. And Dallas will need more from him in Game 7.
“He’s been great all series for us,” Kidd said. “We’ve asked him to guard everybody, and he’s been up for the challenge.”
Production from Jalen Brunson
Second, to the defensive effort, is the offensive production of Jalen Brunson. He’s Dallas’ unquestioned No. 2 guy.
When he’s going, Dallas’ offense is unguardable. Between Dallas’ 3-point shooters and Brunson’s downhill aggression, Phoenix would need to essentially pick what element of Dallas’ offense it wants to stop.
“I think it starts with our physicality and our togetherness,” Brunson said regarding how Dallas can win in an adverse environment. “We were here and together and able to talk through everything. We were able to stay on the same page. It will be tough in their environment, but it is something we have to lock in and do.”
Luka needs to deliver again
Adding complexity to the defensive question for Phoenix is the reality that Doncic can have his way with anyone on Phoenix’s roster.
In elimination games throughout Doncic’s career, he averages 39 points. He’s at the top of a list that includes LeBron James (33.5 points), Michael Jordan (31.3 points), Wilt Chamberland (31.1 points) and Kevin Durant (30.2 points), in that order.
“I don’t care about stats,” Doncic said after Game 6. “If we win, I am good. Statistics don’t really matter to me, but if we win it is going to be amazing. We won this game on the defensive end, and now we have another game.’
Doncic may not care about stats, but his play has carried Dallas in this series. And if the Mavs aim to win Game 7, the team needs great performances on the defensive end and steady offense from its two captains.
If Dallas can do that, winning the ShotQuality battle is all but guaranteed, and winning the overall game should statistically follow.
“They are a great team, and it is a hostile environment up there,” Bullock said. “But, at the same time, we are just going to come with a lot of energy and just keep playing the way we have been playing all year.”
Related Dallas Mavericks reading
Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.