Jason Kidd says Dallas Mavericks need ‘someone to join the party’ after dropping Game 1 to Phoenix Suns despite Luka Doncic turning 45
PHOENIX — One of the most anticipated second-round matchups of the NBA playoffs, pitting Defensive Player of the Year finalist Mikal Bridges against perennial MVP contender Luka Doncic, was a shift in favor of the Dallas Mavericks. in Monday’s first game. didn’t matter.
Doncic burned the top-seeded Phoenix Suns for 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in Game 1 of the series, but the Mavs fell behind in the Western Conference Semifinals with a 121- 114 at the Footprint Center.
The Suns rarely sent an extra defender to Doncic to try and force the ball out of his hands. He did a lot of damage – making 15 of 30 shots from the floor, including eight layups and two dunks – but Phoenix kept the other Mavs point guards from picking up the pace. The rest of the Mavs starters combined for just 39 points, the second time in Doncic’s 17 career playoff games that he has scored more points than the other four players on Dallas’ starting lineup.
“He got everything he wanted, when you look at the shots in the paint, behind the arc, the midrange, and then I also thought he had his teammates do some great looks that we normally did,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “I think he played very well.
“We just have to find someone to join the party.”
Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, the star of the series’ first-round win over the Utah Jazz, had a night off with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Dallas leans as an offensive creator, was limited to eight points on 3-of-8 shooting.
“Any time a guy has 45, you look at that number and you don’t like it, but I look at their assist numbers,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “They only had 16. So, [Maxi] Kleber hit a few 3s, but for the most part no one else did what he is capable of.”
The Suns were content to defend Doncic straight up, usually playing drop cover in the pick-and-roll when lob threat Dwight Powell was on the ground and changing screens set by Kleber, who was the Mavs’ second leading scorer with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Doncic had 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting with Bridges as the leading defenseman.
All 30 field goal attempts by Doncic, who was 4 of 11 from 3-point range, were off the dribble.
“We just need to attack more paint,” said Doncic, whose career playoff scoring average of 33.4 points matches Michael Jordan’s, the highest in NBA history. “I settled for a little too much backing for me. Attacking the paint is our lethal weapon. When we do that we can score easily especially with 5 outs and they have a big rotation. We have to attack more than painting.”
Doncic, however, was much more concerned with Dallas’ defensive performance, especially in the first half. The Suns shot 63.6 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range while building a 13-point halftime lead.
Phoenix attacked Doncic defensively early and often. According to ESPN Stats & Info tracking, the Suns scored 24 points on 10 of 18 shooting when Doncic was the leading defenseman.
“I think our defense lost us the game today,” said Doncic. “Our defensive start was terrible, and we need to change that. I know we can play a much better defense.”