X-factor in Dallas Mavericks second-round playoff series vs. Suns: 1. Luka
The Suns are the better team on paper, but Luka Doncic is going to be the best player in this series. The 23-year-old missed nearly two weeks with a calf strain only to return for Game 4 and drop a 30-point double-double on the Jazz. Doncic averaged 29.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game against Utah, and fans have seen him take his game to another level in the playoffs.
Phoenix has plenty of options to throw at Doncic. Expect Mikal Bridges to take the primary assignment with Jae Crowder waiting as the counter. Will the Suns try to force the ball out of Luka’s hands in the series? It will result in open looks for teammates that the Mavs have knocked down this season.
If the Suns are not sending two, there is no way of stopping number 77. Bridges is an outstanding defender and an ever-improving player, but Luka will score 30-plus in every game. It will take monster performances from Doncic like fans saw against the LA Clippers last postseason for the Mavs to pull the upset. He can do it, so it will come down to how Phoenix attempts to slow him down.
The Jazz hunted Luka in pick and roll situations in the first round. Will the Suns use that strategy to try to wear him down? Do they let Doncic go off for 40 as they try to contain the rest of the team? Their defensive strategy will start and end with what they are going to do against Luka.
The Dallas Mavericks can upset the Phoenix Suns and advance to the Western Conference Finals for just the fifth time in franchise history. Will they? Never count out Luka Doncic and the Mavs.