Mavericks consider downsizing, Suns lock shooters in Game 2

How much of Dallas’ late run is real and how much is Phoenix just coasting with the game in hand?

• Suns vs. Mavericks: Full Series Coverage

PHOENIX — Dallas is looking for faster starts, while Phoenix wants to improve how it ends once these teams meet in Game 2 on Wednesday (7:30 a.m. ET, TNT) of the Western Conference Semifinals at the Footprint Center.

“One thing you can’t lose sight of is that you won a playoff game,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after practice Tuesday. “But we like to play a certain way and we felt like we had good control of the game. We went to see the movie, [and saw] we missed a number of bunnies around the basket. We missed a few open shots. Then the defense component of the transition kind of added to that. I think that funky feeling that we had at the end might generate a bit of [a feeling of] ‘let’s go back there.’ We didn’t feel like we lost, but we certainly didn’t finish the way we should have.

The Suns picked up a wire-to-wire victory in Game 1 in a contest they led by 21 points with 8:48 left, before the Mavericks gradually pulled away to make it a five-point game with just 10, 5 ticks remaining. Phoenix shot an icy 28% on the stretch, as Dallas held Deandre Ayton scoreless for the final 12 minutes after the big man burned the Mavs for a team-high 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the during the first three quarters.

Dallas played the entire fourth quarter with a small roster featuring Dorian Finney-Smith in fifth place, which the team says played a role in their 35-25 win over the Suns in the final frame. .

“We played a lot more tenaciously and more fightingly in that fourth quarter,” Finney-Smith said. “It was everyone moving and talking. We just have to be like that the whole game. I think we can play with this composition. But we’re just going to have to bounce back; bounce and play fast.

Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson play important roles as penetrators and playmakers when the Mavericks play small. But this duo combined over 30 minutes each to shoot 9 of 21 in Game 1, finishing plus-2 and minus-7 respectively.

“We got into the game,” Brunson said Tuesday before Dallas’ practice. “I just feel like it doesn’t matter who’s there – small ball lineup or bigger – if we play hard from the start of the game, it will put us in a better position to succeed. We just have to play harder.

Phoenix grabbed the first nine points in Game 1 on its way to building a 22-7 lead just over halfway through the opening stanza, but the Mavs fell back to less than four points before Chris Paul does not re-enter and regain the lead before. intermission.

Full Focus: Suns balanced offense wins Game 1 vs. Dallas

The Suns held a double-digit advantage for the majority of the second half before Dallas finally grabbed a realistic shot to steal the opener with 1:18 remaining on a 3-point Dinwiddie that cut the lead by the home team to eight points.

“We just chilled out here a little bit late,” Phoenix forward Jae Crowder said. “Where we are now in the playoffs, people are proud. They will continue to play for the 48 minutes. So we have to do the same. We didn’t end the game the way we wanted. But it’s a learning experience for us to keep our foot on the accelerator.

Using Finney-Smith as a small-ball center provided late advantages for Dallas, but this tactic going forward won’t be without compromise given that it takes the team’s best defenseman away from Devin Booker. , the Suns’ leading scorer, in addition to pulling out a rebounder from the floor.

It’s important to remember that Phoenix dominated the boards in Game 1, grabbing 51 rebounds to the Mavericks’ 36.

“We’re going to go small,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said at practice Tuesday. “We have no choice. It’s just the way we play.

After a 45-point opener, point guard Luka Doncic said playing more small balls gave more opportunities to attack the paint. That, in turn, could potentially open up unchallenged looks on the perimeter.

“When we do that, we can score easily, especially with the five outs, and they have to do a big rotation,” Doncic said. “We need to attack more paint.”

Williams and the Suns anticipate as much in Game 2, along with more 3-point attempts from the visitors. The Mavericks shot 39 from range in Game 1. Williams mentioned that Phoenix might be able to reduce that number with better defensive communication in transition.

“There were communication issues in the transition that we were trying to get to our man instead of just finding a guy and finding out later in possession,” Williams explained. “Then there were rotations that were wrong at the back. They were 39 [3-point] attempts. I think their goal is to get well over 40, close to 50. But some we can definitely eliminate just with transition defense, and just the ability to keep the ball, and not have to help with anything something that is difficult against them, but we feel we can do a better job [of].”

The Mavericks, meanwhile, want to focus on getting off to a quick start.

Kidd, Brunson and Kleber all spoke about the importance of not “cooling down” in Wednesday’s Game 2 in front of what most anticipate will be a loud crowd at the Footprint Center.

“We played until the end [in Game 1], that’s what this team does,” Kidd said. “We won’t stop playing. We have done good things. But we have to start the game that way. We focused on this first. They’ve been there before, they’ve come out and they were the aggressors. They set the tone. We played catch-up all night.

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Michael C. Wright is Senior Writer for NBA.com. You can email him herefind his archives here and follow him on Twitter.

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Raymond I. Langston