The Dallas Mavericks will be taking on the Phoenix Suns in the season opener at The Footprint Center, 10:00 p.m. EST/7:00 PST. These two teams have been linked together all offseason after Phoenix’s embarrassing fumble in last year’s postseason to Dallas. Will the potentially crumbling Phoenix Suns get their revenge, or will Dallas make easy work of them again to gain early season momentum?
Phoenix will be going into this game with everyone minus Jae Crowder (hold out) and Landry Shamet (left hip strain). Dallas lists forward Maxi Kleber (non-Covid illness) questionable, with both Davis Bertans (right knee effusion) and Frank Ntilikina (right ankle effusion) out.
Dallas will roll out a five of Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith and JaVale McGee to start. Phoenix is rocking with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Deandre Ayton.
Keys To A Dallas Victory
Dallas will need a spaced out offense throughout the game with a combination of pick and roll basketball. McGee will be able to set hard screens for Doncic right out of the gate, giving the superstar guard more room to find his way in the lane early. Doncic’s gravity will cause the defense to collapse on him, giving him easy openings to create three points for the others. It’s well documented Jason Kidd likes to put Doncic in situations to dish out easy assists to shooters and “bigs”, so giving him an easier way of getting into the lane will help him feed his “bigs”, while getting the shooters open.
The Mavericks will also need to find secondary creation elsewhere. Preferably, Spencer Dinwiddie should take on these duties, as he’s a solid spurt creator off the bench. However, Hardaway Jr. can also do this job well. Next to Doncic in the starting five, he has room to create off of him. Doncic will be able to run the offense with Hardaway Jr. being a tertiary scorer who finds openings without the ball, while creating when need be.
Christian Wood will also need a big role in this game. He provides another elite screen setting option for Doncic, and with his top-notch rim running, the Mavericks have the ability to generate lots of points off a Doncic and Wood connection. A pick and pop should also be a focal point within the offense, as Wood is one of the better pop guys in basketball. Wood can also create offense from the top of the key and the post on his own, which will give Dallas a versatile and unique scoring option to combat the Suns.
Keys To A Phoenix Victory
The Suns internally look like a hot mess right now, so for them to have a fighting chance, that all has to be left behind. With the Crowder dilemma and the issues between Ayton and coach Monty Williams, Phoenix may be in for a down year. However, coach Williams needs to get this team to focus on the on-court play, rather than the underlying issues.
From an on-court standpoint, they need to repeatedly attack the mid-range. The backcourt of Paul and Booker are two of the best in the association at getting to their spots inside the mid-range, and the Mavericks’ defensive personnel struggles with guarding these pull-ups. Each of the star guards know how to get inside in a calm, composed manner; they get to the mid-range spot, stop fast, and pull up immediately. This will need to be a high scoring night for both guards if Phoenix wants a chance.
If the Suns want to nearly lock up this win, they’ll need Ayton to impose his will on both ends. Ayton is their X-Factor, not only for this game, but the entire season. He can’t be afraid to bang down low with the “bigs” as a scorer, and he can’t be passive crashing the glass. Being one of the strongest players in the NBA, Ayton has to translate that to the hardwood and become a dominant big. He has all the tools to be a top five center in the league, but through four seasons, he’s yet to put it all together. This has to be the year when he does so, and it has to start tonight against a weak Dallas interior.
The Spread via Fanduel-
Moneyline: DAL: (+142) | PHX: (-176)
Spread: DAL: +4 (-110) | PHX: -4 (-110)
Total: 225.5 —Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)
The structure of the Phoenix Suns should favor them, but we saw what happened last postseason. Dallas’ high-octane heliocentric offense is too much for them, and with the acquisition of Wood to compliment Doncic on offense, it may simply be too much for the Suns. If Ayton can impose his will, it could be an easy win for the Suns. But he’s yet to do that in five years on a consistent basis, and with the question mark surrounding his place on this team, it’s doubtful that starts tonight. Expect Dallas to keep their number against the Suns.
Score- Mavericks 116, Suns 101