Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks
NBA Western Conference playoff semifinals, Game 3
When: Friday, 6:30 p.m., American Airlines Center
TV/Radio: ESPN/Phoenix's KMVP 98.7 FM
Storyline: The Suns had a supernova in Game 2's fourth quarter as they beat Dallas, 129-109 in Phoenix on Wednesday. They were nearly perfect shooting 84.2% (16-of-19) and 75% from deep (6-of-8), and the Suns' All-Star backcourt mates Chris Paul and Devin Booker led the charge as they finished with 30 and 28 points, respectively.
Just like in Game 1, Mavericks' All-NBA guard Luka Doncic produced the most among all scorers with his game-high 35 points and seven assists on Wednesday. He also had a game-high seven turnovers, many which were forced from the Suns double-teaming him.
Phoenix is halfway toward actualizing their fans' "Suns in 4" sweep chant, which could become a reality after Game 4 in Dallas on Sunday.
Doncic outscored the Mavericks' four other starters in Game 2, who combined for 31 points. That also happened in Game 1 in which he scored 45 and their other starters comprised 39, with Doncic producing half of Dallas' 16 assists.
Key matchup: Deandre Ayton vs. Maxi Kleber
Ayton and Kleber are the Suns' and Mavericks' respective top shooting bigs. The former is who Paul calls the quarterback of Phoenix's defense, and Kleber is Dallas' best three-point shooter at 50% off the bench.
In Game 1, Ayton had a game-high 25 points and added eight rebounds and one block. Kleber was the Mavs' second-best contributor to Doncic (19 points on 6-of-9 FG, 5-of-8 from the 3, one rebounds, one block in 25 minutes). Ayton and Kleber had identical shooting stats (nine points, 3-of-6 FG) in Game 2, Kleber played almost 10 more minutes because Ayton got into foul trouble in the third quarter.
Expensive mistake: Mavericks fined $25K by NBA in Game 2 loss to Suns
Ayton and Kleber are both athletic and run the floor well, but Ayton has more muscle which helps him as a rebounder (11.8 to Kleber's 4.3). Ayton has perfected his quick turnaround jump shot and floater off feeds in the post (15.8 points on 67% FG, 67.4% true shooting), but Kleber steps out around the perimeter and stretches the Suns defense, letting it fly off screens (76.2% true shooting).
This matchup is interesting because Ayton likes to step out and defend away from the paint using his length, but he'll have to prove he won't get caught on pick-and-roll plays defending the Mavericks' guard-heavy offense and caught on pin downs to free up Kleber.
For subscribers: 5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns cooking Dallas Mavericks in Game 2
For subscribers: 5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns winning Game 1 vs. Dallas Mavericks
There were 11 offensive foul calls in Game 2. Seven of the first nine called were on the Suns. Will the officials continue to be whistle happy in Game 3, or let the physicality roll in this playoff game?
Which players will step up to balance the scoring load with Doncic?
Will the Mavericks continue their isolation-heavy offensive plays for Doncic to carry them, or look to get his other teammates in a scoring rhythm?
Can Chris Paul add another dominant fourth quarter performance to lead Suns to a 3-0 series lead?
Suns vs. Mavericks picks: Who wins NBA Playoffs Game 3?
By the numbers: Key stats to know
Suns shot a postseason franchise record 64.5% from the field (49-of-76) in the Game 2 win, including 52.0% from 3-point range (13-of-25).
Suns have shot 50% or greater in all eight of their playoff games this postseason, setting a postseason franchise record for consecutive games shooting 50-plus% from the field (league record is 10-straight such games by the 1984 L.A. Lakers). Phoenix has shot 60% or better in each of the last two games.
Chris Paul scored 14 of his 28 points in Game 2's fourth quarter. He leads the league in fourth quarter scoring average in this year’s postseason at 10.3 (min. 4 games played)
Crowder now stands at 196 postseason career 3-point field goals, four shy of passing Damian Lillard for 24th on the NBA’s all-time postseason three-point field goals list.
Luka Doncic is averaging 40 points (53.8% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 78.9%FT), 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists through the first two games of the series. His 33.5 points per game in this postseason is the highest career-scoring average in playoff history (min. 10 games played), just ahead of Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg).
X-factor: Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo tends to always bring a spark off the bench.
He had nine points, three rebounds and one block in 18 and a half minutes off the bench, and had key dunks to help extend the Suns' lead in Game 2's second through fourth quarters.
Biyombo can guard smaller players, alter shots in the paint, soft hands for rebounds for second-chance points and extending possessions, and catching quick dimes under the basket that usually result in dunks. That will be integral in crucial moments when Ayton needs a breather in Game 3, and the rest of this series.
Suns announced Thursday that forward Dario Saric underwent a successful arthroscopic procedure to the meniscus of his right knee. Saric will continue to be out indefinitely after he tore his ACL in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Support local journalism. Start your online subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks: What you need to know about Game 3