Phoenix Suns Matchups to Watch in Game 3 vs Dallas Mavericks

After an unexpectedly grueling first round series against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Phoenix Suns now find themselves dancing with the Dallas Mavericks in round two.

Phoenix has been dominant vs Dallas for some time now. Coming into this matchup, they had won nine straight vs their rival from the lone star state, and now up 2-0 on the series, the beatdown looks certain to continue.

As we move deeper into this series, one can expect the Mavs to get more desperate and begin to play harder. Almost all teams do this when on the ropes, and the Suns should expect nothing less from a resilient team like Dallas, as it looks to throw some knockout punches despite being down on the cards.

To stay ready for that, the Suns will need to remain focused and avoid getting flustered by Dallas’s no holds back approach. In doing so, they will want to concentrate on winning the following two matchups, which will then pave a way for their game plan to take effect.

Deandre Ayton vs Luka Doncic

A showdown between the former top three picks of the 2018 draft could prove most important as this series continues to unfold. Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder have, and will likely continue to draw Doncic as an assignment, but Ayton will still see plenty of him in the pick-and-roll game.

Like the Suns’ own Chris Paul, Doncic is adept at hunting and exploiting mismatches through the pick-and-roll. The Mavs’ star ranked third in the NBA in points scored off such plays this season. Following Game 2, he ranks third in the league for frequency of pick-and-roll plays in the postseason as well.

As Luka looks to maintain his team’s scoring load, watch for him to go after Ayton more often as he becomes even more aggressive.

If Ayton can manage to consistently stay in front of Doncic on the perimeter, it changes the whole equation for the Suns, as it would force him to look for other mismatches. Doing so would also allow Ayton to return to his usual post under the basket where he’s most effective in helping on drives and cuts.

Ayton’s ability to guard Doncic throughout their careers has been one of the catalysts for the Suns’ success against the Mavericks, including Game’s 1 and 2. If he can keep doing it, the Suns maintain a major advantage.

JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo vs Small Ball

Dallas’s small ball attack stood most responsible for their first round series victory over the Utah Jazz. The Mavs completely nullified three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert by sizing down and playing five out on offense.

Gobert’s fantastic regular season defensive rating of 104.5 skyrocketed to an ugly 113.3 in the series. With the quick feet he’s displayed thus far in the series, we know Ayton can defend small ball better than most bigs. He’s shown an ability to not only stay with smaller players on the perimeter, but also to punish them on the offensive side.

On the other hand though, JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyomobo will have a harder time defending a small ball lineup. If they can manage to stick with any smaller guards, then that gives the Suns a full, 48 minute size advantage over the Mavs.

We saw them do this for a few spurts in Game 2, but those numbers felt somewhat doctored by all the foul trouble Phoenix had to deal with amongst their bigs.

But say someone like Jalen Brunson rediscovers his spark and begins to exploit McGee or Biyombo, the Suns will need to cook up their own small ball lineup when resting Ayton. While the Suns can play small ball, it’s not their strength, and not having a true rim protector against Doncic spells trouble.

Hopefully, we do not even reach this point though, as the Suns have remained astute against Dallas’s offense from the point of attack, forcing turnovers and dismantling their sets even before they formulate.