Score of Mavericks vs. Suns takeaways: Luka Doncic leads Dallas to dominant Game 7 win at Phoenix

The Dallas Mavericks are headed to the Western Conference finals and there was little doubt they would get there after their big start in Game 7. The Mavericks jumped out to a 57-27 lead over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night and they never looked. back on his way to a 123-90 win. Luka Doncic was spectacular for Dallas in the first 24 minutes of play as he led all scorers with 27 points. While that nearly surpassed the Mavericks’ first-half point total on its own, Doncic got plenty of help when Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 21 points off the bench.

In the end, Doncic finished off the victory with 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in just 30 minutes of action. Dinwiddie provided plenty of help off the bench and finished with 30 points of his own, while Jalen Brunson also chipped in 24 points to help Dallas to a lopsided win on the road. On the other hand, Phoenix struggled all night on the offensive end as Cam Johnson led all Suns scorers with 12 points off the bench.

With the win, the Mavericks face the Golden State Warriors to determine which team will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

Here are three key takeaways from the Mavericks’ Game 7 victory.

1. The Legend of Luke

LeBron James has never loved a player as much as Luka Doncic. “The way he plays reminds me of the way I play,” James said at All-Star Weekend. James infamously tried to convince Nike to launch a LeBron brand built around Doncic as its first flagship athlete. NBA history is littered with stars from a generation publicly blessing their successors. Michael Jordan did it with Kobe Bryant. James has done it with Doncic. It’s fitting because Doncic is doing his best James impression right now.

In 2007, a fourth-year LeBron James stunned a No. 1-seeded opponent with Finals experience to get himself onto the NBA’s biggest stage. Doncic’s fight with the 64-win Suns came a round earlier, but it had the same feel. The best team in the NBA regular season had no answer for Luka. He scored as many points as his entire team in the first half of Game 7 (27).

This is bigger than Dallas having a legitimate shot at the championship. It’s even bigger than Doncic potentially becoming the best player in the NBA on a day Giannis Antetokounmpo’s season ended. It’s about reaching a point that we see only once or twice in a generation. It’s where Michael Jordan was in 1986 when he scored 63 against the Celtics and where James was in 2007 when he beat the Pistons. It is that turning point in a young career where anything is possible.

Doncic has a long, long way to go before he can be compared to Jordan and James. He may never be the defender they were. Without a superstar teammate, he will have a hard time chasing them in terms of championships. But right here, right now, he’s hitting the same checkpoints that they did all those years ago. If his career continues on the path it’s on now, Luka Doncic will be one of the greatest players in NBA history. And we, as a collective fan base, can spend the next decade of our lives watching him try to do it. There is nothing better in all of basketball than that. So buckle up, people. The Luka Dancic era is upon us.

2.CP37

Chris Paul turned 37 the night of Game 3 of this series. Before his birthday, he was averaging 22.6 points, 9.9 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in the playoffs. As? He dropped to 9.4 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 turnovers. Players don’t normally turn into pumpkins at midnight now, but it was a stark reminder that the version of Paul we’d seen in recent seasons was something of an anomaly. Little guards aren’t supposed to age that well. Paul came within two wins of a championship last season. He seemed completely helpless against Dallas.

At this point, it’s too early to say what might be behind it. Maybe Paul really did age overnight. Andscape’s Marc Spears reported that Paul was dealing with a left quadriceps injury. It is not known how serious he was, but at 30 years old, such injuries will probably become the norm in the future. We should also give the Dallas defense due credit. The combination of Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith did a masterful job with Paul and Devin Booker.

But the whole vision of Phoenix is ​​based on having two star guards. Winning a championship means Paul has to look like the version of himself that he was during the regular season. If he can’t be that player, this version of the Suns is effectively out of the championship race. Speaking of which, they have another important problem to solve now.

3. What’s next for Deandre Ayton?

Before the season, Deandre Ayton asked the Suns for a maximum contract. They said no. Ayton handled his business professionally throughout the year. But he played just 17 minutes in Game 7. When asked why, Suns coach Monty Williams replied “he’s an insider.” What exactly is going on between Ayton and the Suns is not entirely clear. Here’s what it is: Ayton will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

That gives the Suns the right to match any offer made to Ayton. The question here is whether they will or not. Re-signing Ayton at the salary he’s likely to get would push the Suns into the tax. The owner, Robert Sarver, is notoriously cheap. Sarver is also under investigation by the league due to allegations that he created a hostile work environment, and if that leads to any kind of change in ownership, we really have no idea what to expect. The five teams with significant cap space right now are the Pacers, Blazers, Magic, Pistons and Spurs. One of them will likely sense enough of a weakness in Phoenix to throw a max offer sheet at Ayton in hopes of stealing it.

If Phoenix isn’t willing to pay him what the market suggests he’s worth, a sign-and-trade deal might make sense. After all, the Suns took Ayton with the first overall pick they could have used on Doncic. The optics of losing him for nothing would be dire, and frankly, such a talent drain would likely end any hope the Suns have of getting back into contention next season. But Phoenix went 16-6 without Ayton this season. If there is something between him and the team, there is a valid argument in favor of moving him. Centers, with a few big exceptions, tend to be less valuable in the playoffs.

Devin Booker is an All-NBA player who is likely to get better. Mikal Bridges is not that good, but he hopes to improve too. But after that? The Suns have as many question marks as any other team in the NBA. This is going to be a tough offseason for James Jones to navigate.

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