NBA Film Room: How Mavericks Figured Out Suns For WCF Birth

Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd knew that to take down the Phoenix Suns in Game 7, his team would have to disrupt the opponent’s attack before it could get started. That meant neutralizing Chris Paul’s ability to create shots for others in the pick-and-roll and getting the ball out of Devin Booker’s hands.

CP3 has been excellent in Phoenix as their sage leader and the orchestrator of their offense, but Booker has always been their primary bucket getter. The Mavericks came into Game 7 scheming to completely disjoint Phoenix’s game plan, and it worked to perfection.

A fun NBA fact that many fans and even analysts may not have considered often is that the away team in a contest gets to choose which direction of play the game starts off on.

Many coaches in a win-or-go-home deathmatch may prefer to have their team playing defense in front of their bench to end the game, giving them the ability to call out directions and assign matchups in the closing moments. Kidd chose the opposite, opting to try to snuff out the Phoenix Suns’ offense early and win the night before it barely even started. And it was brilliant.

Through an intense and inspiring hands-on approach, Kidd was able to micromanage his team’s defense into holding the Suns to a historically low 27 points in the first half. Luka Doncic matched that total himself for the Mavericks.

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As seen in the clip above, Kidd and the Mavericks made it a point of emphasis to send traps and doubles at Devin Booker early and often. They even mixed in a little zone at times to ensure that Book was as uncomfortable and as heavily blanketed as possible.

He saw multiple bodies at a variety of different spots on the court: as soon as he crossed half court, at the nail, and even in the low post. Constantly being trapped and shadowed clearly flustered Booker and affected his play, leading to erratic passes, poor decision making, and reckless shot selection.

The Mavericks made it blatantly evident that they were comfortable committing multiple defenders to Booker and would live with open shots from his less offensively gifted teammates.

Coming off of this high screen, Booker sees two Mavericks walling off his lane and Reggie Bullock chasing him from behind. In this instance, he makes the easy and correct play by tossing a short outlet pass to Chris Paul who finds Jae Crowder for three. The traps from Dallas were commonplace in Game 7, but the rosy result for Phoenix was incredibly rare.

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As for CP3, the Mavericks found great success by sticking length on the all-time great point guard and switching tightly on his screen actions with Deandre Ayton. Dallas forced Ayton to beat mismatches straight up, and he failed to do so consistently which essentially neutralized Phoenix’s infamous two-man game.

They had figured this out earlier in the series. The moment that the Mavs were able to solve the Chris Paul pick-and-roll, they had the Phoenix Suns backed into a corner.

With Paul removed from the equation, pinpointing their defensive effort onto Devin Booker allowed the Mavericks to completely shut down Phoenix’s offense as a whole.

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On the other end of the court, Dallas kept it simple, put the ball in the hands of their best creators, and hunted mismatches.

Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jalen Brunson combined for 89 points, taking turns cooking the matchup that they most favored. Oftentimes, it was Deandre Ayton.

It’ll be interesting to see which players they’ll hunt in mismatches in their next series against the Golden State Warriors. The greatest x-factor in the Western Conference Finals will be how well Dallas’s defense fares against the Dubs egalitarian and ball-movement-focused attack.

Golden State’s passing and off-ball player relocation should make for a much more difficult solve than Phoenix’s pick-and-roll heavy offense, but Jason Kidd should be up for the challenge.