The Western Conference semifinal series between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks has followed a pattern.
The home team has won every game and the series is tied 2-2 going into Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Suns guard Chris Paul was outstanding in his team’s two wins, and unusually ineffective in the Mavericks’ two wins.
Paul averaged 23.5 points and 3.5 turnovers in Games 1 and 2, but his seven first-half turnovers in Game 3 and foul trouble in Game 4 helped a resurgent Dallas team knot the series 2-all.
“If you don’t have CP out there,” said Luka Doncic, who led the Mavericks with 26 points in their 111-101 victory Sunday. “It’s for sure tougher on (his) team.”
Paul’s struggles made things harder for the Suns, but they didn’t hand anything to Dallas, which played much better at home than it did on the road. The Mavericks, who gave up an average of 125 points in Phoenix, held the Suns to less than 50 percent shooting in each of the last two games after they had shot 50 percent or better in their first eight playoff games.
“Our defense won us these two games,” Doncic said.
Dallas’ 3-point shooting was a major factor in Game 4. The Mavericks made 20 of 44 from beyond the arc. Dorian Finney-Smith led the way by scoring a playoff career-high 24 points on a career-best 8 of 12 on 3-point attempts.
Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber (24 3-pointers in the playoffs) and Reggie Bullock (29 playoff 3s) have been testing the perimeter defense of the Suns.
Paul went to the bench after committing his third foul with 1:52 left in the second quarter, but coach Monty Williams put him back in the game with 45 seconds left.
The move backfired when Paul committed a fourth foul with one second left in the half, colliding with Doncic while trying to rebound his own miss.
“I should’ve kept Chris out of the game, especially right before halftime,” said Williams, one of three finalists to be Coach of the Year.
Paul was called for his fifth foul 2 1/2 minutes into the second half and sat out the rest of the third quarter. After returning early in the fourth he fouled out with 8:28 left in the game and played only played three minutes and 58 seconds in the second half.
“I’ve just got to look at myself and figure out how to do better,” Paul said.
Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points, but with Paul finishing with just five, Phoenix couldn’t keep up.
“We understand that it’s a series,” Booker said. “It’s the playoffs for a reason. “We’re going to make our adjustments. … I think we just have to flush it and move on to the next game.”
Phoenix committed 17 turnovers in each of the games in Dallas, leading to 22 Mavericks points in Game 3 and 23 points in Game 4.
“That’s not us,” said Jae Crowder, who scored 15 points Sunday. “We haven’t done that all year.”
The Mavericks guaranteed themselves another home game — Thursday is Game 6 of the best-of-seven — and have performed well in their own building.
“It’s 2-2 and we worked to be in this position,” Williams said. “So I told our guys, we’ve got to have the mindset of coming back here and winning this thing.”
–Field Level Media