For a few, brief moments in the first round, the Phoenix Suns looked vulnerable. When Devin Booker was injured, the 64-18 Suns were pushed to the limit by the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. The series was tied at two, and had a few breaks gone their way, the Pelicans might be the team still standing. Chris Paul’s heroics and Booker’s return put the Suns back on top, but entering the second round, their halo of invincibility appeared to be gone. The Suns looked mortal.
And then, for most of Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks, they reminded us why they were the NBA’s best team for the entire season. Phoenix led by 17 after three quarters, but a furious Dallas comeback made it competitive. So which version of these teams are we going to see in Game 2? The ones that allowed the Suns to dominate the bulk of the night? Or the ones that were more competitive down the stretch.
Here’s how you can tune into Game 2 to find out.
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(1) Phoenix Suns vs. (4) Dallas Mavericks
When: Wednesday, May 4 | 10 p.m. ET
Where: Footprint Center — Phoenix, Arizona
TV: TNT | Live stream: TNT App
Odds: DAL +210; PHO -260; O/U 216 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Featured Game| Phoenix Suns vs. Dallas Mavericks
Mavericks: Part of me wants to tell you that Luka Doncic probably isn’t going to score 45 points again … but … well … have you seen Playoff Luka? He’s played in 17 playoff games and reached at least 38 points eight times. He’s grappled with championship favorites before and more than held his own. The Suns may be the NBA’s best team, but Doncic, in a playoff setting, could easily be its best player. The rest of this series will be his chance to prove just how special he can be on the game’s biggest stage.
Suns: DeAndre Ayton is averaging 23.4 points on 68.4 percent shooting over his past five games. That’s not a coincidence. He has grown into the sort of big man who can punish smaller opposing lineups this season, and Dallas beat Utah largely by going small in the first round. If the Mavericks continue to do so in this series, Ayton is going to continue punishing them for it, and with restricted free agency coming up this summer, the timing for him couldn’t be better. There is little Dallas can do to slow down Paul and Booker. They’re All-NBA players who will find ways to impact games no matter what. But Ayton is the swing piece here. If Phoenix has three bona fide stars in this matchup, the Suns will win easily. Dallas has to find a way to contain him if it plans to win this series.
There was plenty of reason to doubt Booker’s health entering Game 1. He looked hobbled in his return against the Pelicans, but his 23-point outing in Game 2 should have quieted any notions that he won’t be able to give Phoenix what it needs in this series. As well as Doncic has always played in the playoffs, a healthy Booker makes this a mismatch. Phoenix has been the NBA’s best team all season. Why should that stop on Wednesday? The pick: Suns -6