PHOENIX — Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd has given a similar message after both games so far in the Western Conference semifinals: Luka Doncic needs a lot more help against the top seeded Phoenix Suns.
Dallas lost another brilliant offensive performance from Doncic in Wednesday’s Game 2, scoring 35 points at 13-of-22 in a 129-109 loss as the Suns grabbed a 2-0 series lead. The Suns repeatedly targeted Doncic defensively as they scorched the Mavs for 71 points in the second half.
“He played a great game, but no one else showed it,” Kidd said. “We need to make sure that other guys can shoot the ball better. We can’t win with just him scoring 30 a night — not at this time of year. And we’re playing against the best team in the league, so we have to get other guys going.”
Kidd specifically mentioned that the Mavs need a lot more production from guards Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, who collectively managed just 41 points out of 32.6% in the two losses at the Footprint Center. It’s a particularly stark contrast to the previous series for Brunson, who starred in the first-round win at the Utah Jazz, averaging 27.8 points over the six-game streak.
Chris Paul and Devin Booker, the All-Star guard of the Suns, dominated in part Wednesday night by chasing Doncic relentlessly. That was especially true in the second half, when Booker scored 21 of his 30 points and Paul 20 of his 28.
“A tough match to guard,” Booker said of Doncic, “but he’ll have to watch out a bit.”
According to Second Spectrum tracking, Doncic was the screener defender on 19 on-ball screens in the second half, the third most in any half in his career. The Suns averaged 1.81 points per chance on those possessions. That’s the highest efficiency allowed by a single defender involved in at least 15 direct picks in the past three seasons.
“I just have to defend better,” said Doncic. “That is it.”
The Suns blew the game open in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and increased their lead from six to 15 when Paul took over and exploded for 14 points and two assists during that period. Paul used Doncic on switches for a few layups and a pull-up jumper, and also found Cameron Johnson for a three-pointer, on the decisive run of 21-7.
“We need to help him better,” Kidd said of the Suns attack on Doncic. “They bring him everywhere. We knew it was coming into the series. We knew that in the last series. We’ve protected each other better, not just Luka. We need to get back to protecting one another for Game 3 at home.”
It was a historically efficient offensive by Booker, Paul and the Suns. Phoenix set a franchise playoff record by shooting 64.5% from the floor, with 84.2% in the fourth quarter. The Suns had a true shooting rate of 75.7%. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that ranks second in a playoff game, with just 77.8% of the LA Clippers in a Game 5 win over the Mavericks in the first round of 2020.
Especially Paul, who also gave eight assists, was masterful. He went 11-of-16 off the floor, including 9-of-10 in the second half. Booker went 11-of-19 from the floor and 5-for-8 from 3-point range, with all of his 3s coming after halftime.
“If you look at CP and Book, they took turns,” Kidd said. “One took the third quarter, the next the fourth quarter and we had no answers. … They got the shots they wanted. CP went to his spots and he made layups and jump shots. Book made 3s. They are really good. They understand the situation. They’ve seen it all. We just have to get better.”
The Mavs, who are playing in the second round for the first time since the 2011 championship, will look for solutions as they fly home to Dallas on Thursday.
“For many players it is the first time in this situation,” said Doncic. “We believe, man. They have to win four, so it’s not over yet.’