If the Mavericks’ game plan against the Jazz was quite simple, breaking a very permeable first defensive curtain to attract Rudy Gobert’s assists and freeing the outside shooters, it is necessarily more delicate against the solid Suns, who have more weapons to punish the “small ball” and more defensive certainties.
However, in the last two games of the conference semi-finals, Jason Kidd’s players showed the tracks that allow them to destabilize Phoenix.
During Game 4, it was obviously their big exterior address (20/44) that jumped out, with in particular the performance of Dorian Finney-Smith but, tactically, it was above all the will of Luka Doncic and company to ” fix” Arizona defenders, based on duels and potential assists, which is interesting.
Fix the duels well by the screens and cuts
On this sequence, a double screen from Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith thus allows Luka Doncic to find himself facing Chris Paul. The Slovenian gives the ball to his German teammate to fix the defensive duels, then recovers it to post the opposing leader. Then it was Maxi Kleber’s cut in the key that caused some confusion in Phoenix’s defensive rotations, as Deandre Ayton stayed in the paint to cover the circle, but Jae Crowder was on his side to help on Luka Doncic , and Devin Booker must therefore make a choice over the two weak side players, while waiting for his teammate to return.
It is precisely in this time frame that Luka Doncic can serve Dorian Finney-Smith in the corner.
A few possessions later, Deandre Ayton found himself on Spencer Dinwiddie on the defensive back. The Mavericks are still setting the situation to take advantage, serving Luka Doncic, who can attack the circle and draw the assist, inevitable as there is no longer an inside to protect the circle.
Mikal Bridges thus loose Maxi Kleber to cut the penetration, but Luka Doncic does not serve the German, Chris Paul rushing behind his back to compensate. The Slovenian once again cleverly took advantage of Devin Booker’s move to the racket to serve Dorian Finney-Smith, again in the corner, at 3-point.
Dallas’ “small ball” still hurts
Since his arrival in the NBA, Luka Doncic has impressed with his ability to anticipate aids, and therefore to punish them. A “Jedi” vision that allows him to be one step ahead of the defense, and to remain unpredictable.
Anyway, like Utah, Phoenix seemed very embarrassed by Dallas’ small ball last night, with five players playing behind the 3-point line. On this third example, Luka Doncic gets the defensive change he wants against Cam Johnson. He passes the ball to Maxi Kleber then recovers it to fix the duels well then his German teammate cuts into the racket again when he attacks his opponent in a dribble.
Again, that causes some weakside confusion, with Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker wanting to cover Maxi Kleber’s cut, and Luka Doncic seeing him serve Reggie Bullock in the corner.
Like Rudy Gobert in the previous round, Deandre Ayton thus often found his ass between two chairs during the last two games of the series, between the fact of having to protect the circle in the event of penetration, and the need to cover the shooters in the corners facing this Texan “small ball” which plays very, very wide.
Dallas may need to work a little harder to stretch Phoenix’s defense, compared to Utah’s, but they seem to have found the keys to doing so on a fairly regular basis. It’s up to the Suns to find the parade now…