All the pressure is on the Phoenix Suns when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The home team has won in the previous six games of the series, and the Mavericks have lost seven straight games on the Suns’ home floor since a victory early in the 2019-20 season.
Dallas also was annihilated 110-80 in Game 5 in Phoenix.
A Mavericks’ win would shake like an earthquake, as well as send a team that lost in the 2021 NBA Finals home much sooner than expected.
The top-seeded Suns won an NBA-best 64 games in the regular season.
The situation allows the fourth-seeded Mavericks to play freely while the Suns’ play will be dissected if they were to be eliminated in the second round.
“Me personally, I’m not really worried about what they have to lose or not,” Dallas guard Jalen Brunson said. “I’m worried about what we’re capable of doing and how are we going to let our season end.”
The Mavericks remained alive with a scintillating 113-86 rout of the Suns in Thursday’s Game 6 in Dallas.
The Mavericks committed just seven turnovers in the game while forcing Phoenix into 22.
“The turnovers. Terrible, unacceptable. It’s that type of game where it was just unacceptable, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “Them dudes, they wanted it more. I think after every loss we’ve had, they’ve shown that they wanted it more. It just wasn’t a team that didn’t want it. And it showed. Dramatically.”
Phoenix coach Monty Williams couldn’t believe his eyes as the turnovers mounted and his team finished with its lowest point total of the entire campaign.
“They played harder than us and we typically don’t allow that,” Williams said. “We understand that we turned it over and we did not have a focus. Our concepts in our defensive coverages was nowhere near average.”
The Suns have been unable to lasso Luka Doncic, and the Dallas point guard was superb with 33 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
Doncic is averaging 32.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals in the series.
“I think he enjoys the moment,” Mavericks first-year coach Jason Kidd said. “You guys have seen (it) a little bit longer than I have up close. He’s not afraid of the stage. I think you guys call it the first time winning an elimination game. He’ll be in this situation a long, long time.”
While Doncic is now 1-2 in elimination games, Suns star Devin Booker will be in his first Game 7.
Phoenix didn’t make the playoffs in any of Booker’s first five seasons. When the Suns broke the drought last season, three of their series ended in six games and the other was over in four.
“Greatest two words in sports,” Booker said of the term Game 7. “I’m excited to feel the energy. I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Booker is averaging 25.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the series but he had a shaky outing on Thursday. He scored 19 points but was 6-of-17 shooting and committed eight turnovers.
Phoenix also will need a better effort from veteran point guard Chris Paul, who had 13 points but five turnovers compared to just four assists.
Ayton stood out for the Suns with 21 points and 11 rebounds in Game 6 for his third double-double of the series.
Doncic received help from Brunson (18 points) and Reggie Bullock on Thursday. Bullock stunningly made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points and he sees his club riding the energy of the impressive 27-point win.
“We know what we need to bring to this game,” Bullock said. “It’s a hostile environment, but we’ve got all the energy behind us right now. It’s about us just performing that on Sunday.”
–Field Level Media