The only way the Suns lose their second round series to the Dallas Mavericks is if Luka Giannis’s the Suns.
In other words, if Luka can dominate the series the way Giannis Antekuommpo did in the NBA Finals last year, the Mavericks have a chance.
Now there are a couple of big differences between the teams and players. Luka isn’t 7 feet tall. Luka is nowhere near being as great of a defender as Giannis. And Luka doesn’t have a Khris Middleton or Jrue Holiday to share the offensive and defensive load.
He is however still one of the five best players in the league and the history of the NBA playoffs tells us that can often be enough to wreak havoc in the postseason.
So how do the Suns deal with this challenge? Do they let Luka get his and lock down on everyone else defensively? Do they have Mikal Bridges fit him in a straight jacket for four quarters and see if Luka can Houdini his way out of it four times in seven games.
My approach would be different.
I’d throw a defense-by-committee at Luka to start the games. Have Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Torrey Craig take turns just doing their best to make things a little uncomfortable for Doncic. This way, I’d reduce the chance of foul trouble wreaking havoc on the Suns rotation and prevent any one player from gassing themselves out defending the player with the 2nd highest usage rate in the NBA.
Additionally, this approach would free Mikal Bridges up to handle Jalen Brunson or the best perimeter shooter on the floor for the Mavericks, while still staying involved offensively.
If Bridges can be deployed to shut down the Mave best secondary scorer, I think that’s the Suns best chance to win this series. If Luka gets rolling and the Mavericks are hitting open 3’s, it could be a tough boulder to stop once it gets going downhill. The Mavericks aren’t a great three point shooting team, they were 19th in the NBA in the regular season but they do have enough shooters to knock down practice looks.
When the fourth quarter rolls around, and depending on the game situation, that’s when I’d ask Bridges to take the lead on defending Luka.
The Suns don’t have to worry about getting bullied by the Mavericks front court, they were the worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA’s first round of the playoffs.
They just have to worry about Luka. It will be a challenge against one of the NBA’s best but the Suns will be up for it.
I have the Suns winning in six.