Entering Thursday night’s Game 6 in Dallas, nine series had been completed in the 2022 NBA Playoffs without requiring a Game 7, with the Miami Heat being the latest team to advance in fewer than the maximum with a Game 6 win in Philadelphia.
The Phoenix Suns were looking to do the same, but after going back-and-forth in a tight game for 19 minutes, the Mavs made the first big run of the game — one that the Suns would, ultimately, never be able to come back from. With 6:27 to play, the Mavs led 41-39, but would go on a 19-6 run to close the quarter to take a 15-point lead into the halftime break, with Luka Doncic, as always, at the center of the run.
The Mavs kept up the pace in the third quarter, as they had the Suns normally stingy defense running ragged as they sent help at Doncic and he picked out the right passes over and over.
Phoenix would try a number of coverages on Doncic, but the Mavs star was able to find a counter each time. On a few occasions his defender would get prepared to go over a screen and jump up on his hip, only for the screener to stay back, allowing Doncic a free driving lane to the basket.
Dallas took a 22-point lead into the fourth quarter and put it on cruise control from there as the Suns were able to nibble into that lead a bit but never really mount a real comeback effort, with the Suns pulling their starters with four minutes to go in a 20-point game after Chris Paul appeared to tweak his hand injury, with Dallas cruising to a 113-86 win.
It was an oddly flat performance from Phoenix in a closeout opportunity, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker struggling to run the offense at its normally level of efficiency and being forced into 12 combined turnovers, compared to just seven assists for the star backcourt duo. Booker finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, but was just 6-of-17 from the field, with most of those buckets coming in the first quarter. Paul had 13 on 4-of-7 shooting, but was frustrated for much of the night by the Mavs’ ball pressure and continues to look a bit worn out from expending a lot of energy getting the Suns past the Pelicans in the first round. The bright spot for Phoenix was Deandre Ayton, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he’s so reliant on others to get him the ball that Dallas has been able to mitigate his presence by hounding Phoenix’s ball handlers and making it difficult to get him the ball against the mismatches he so often has.
On Dallas’ side, Luka was again tremendous with 33 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, and four steals, even in a bit of an off shooting night (11-of-26 from the field, 2-of-8 from three). Jalen Brunson chipped in 18 points and three steals, upping his output on both ends in a big game, and they got shooting support from Reggie Bullock and Spencer Dinwiddie, who each hit five three-pointers on the evening. Dallas now sends the series back to Phoenix, where they haven’t been as competitive, but will only need one night of their “others” finding a stroke from deep around Doncic, who has proven his game travels no matter the opponent, to pull off the upset against the Suns in their home building.