The Dallas Mavericks went on the road and defeated the LA Clippers at the Staples Center in the first two games of their first-round series. Kawhi Leonard and company punched back to win Game 3 in Dallas, despite Luka Doncic going off for 44 points. The Mavs have already exceeded the expectations of many, but they are looking to pull the upset.
Luka has been incredible in the series, but he needs help. The Mavericks had five players in double figures in their Game 1 win. Four exceeded that threshold in Game 2 with Jalen Brunson and Josh Richardson each chipping in nine apiece. Four had double figures in the loss, but nobody other than Doncic had more than 14 points. The role players need to sink open shots for Dallas to advance.
The key to the Dallas Mavericks going on a postseason run is Jalen Brunson. Yes, they need Luka to be a superstar, but he has delivered in his first nine NBA Playoff games. There is no reason to think the 22-year-old is slowing down. It is Brunson that is going to make or break the Mavs this year.
Why Jalen Brunson is the key to Dallas Mavericks playoff success
The Mavs did not have Brunson when they lost to the LA Clippers in the first round of the 2020 playoffs inside the bubble because he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. JB came back better than ever this season. He put up new career-highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage on his way to finishing fourth in the Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Dallas has outscored the Clippers by 27 points in Luka Doncic’s 117.4 minutes through three games in this series. They have lost the other 26.6 minutes by 19. Luka finished with a positive plus-minus in every game in the series. Dallas was outscored by 13 points in his less than 9.5 minutes on the bench in Game 3.
Brunson is the key because he is running the Mavericks offense when Luka sits. In JB’s 59.7 minutes in the series, the Clippers have outscored Dallas by 35 points. It is a stark but telling contrast. The Mavs need to hold their own when Luka rests.
The offense stagnated in Game 3 without Doncic. The Mavericks scored just 13 points during his time on the bench. That is a 67-point pace for the entire game. With Brunson leading the offense in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Dallas took four of their five field-goal attempts with less than five seconds remaining on the shot clock and had one turnover in just over 3.5 minutes of action.
Jalen Brunson shot the ball well on May 28. He finished with 14 points on five of eight shooting from the field in 22 minutes of action. JB did most of his damage flanking Luka Doncic, though. The Mavericks need him to step up and make wide-open shots when he is playing off the ball. Brunson delivered on Friday night.
The Dallas Mavericks must perform better in the minutes Luka Doncic rests to make a deep playoff run. That means Jalen Brunson has to keep the offense rolling and create open looks for his teammates. Yes, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. both need to be better than they were in Game 3, but playing even in the minutes without Doncic will be enough for Dallas to pull the upset and advance the second round for the first time since winning the championship in 2011.