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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks bury 20 3-pointers, even series with Suns

May 8, 2022, 10:28 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic had a double-double and Dorian Finney-Smith led a 3-point shooting barrage as the host Dallas Mavericks defeated the visiting Phoenix Suns 111-101 on Sunday to even their Western Conference semifinal series 2-2.

Doncic had 26 points and 11 assists and Finney-Smith scored 24 points, making 8 of 12 3-pointers as the Mavericks finished 20 of 44 from beyond the arc. Jalen Brunson scored 18 points, Davis Bertans scored 12, Maxi Kleber had 11 and Spencer Dinwiddie had 10.

Devin Booker scored 35 points, Jae Crowder had 15, Deandre Ayton added 14 and 11 rebounds and Cameron Johnson scored 11 to lead the Suns, who made 9 of 25 3-pointers.

Suns guard Chris Paul played just 23 minutes, finishing with five points and seven assists before fouling with 8:58 left.

Game 5 will be Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Mavericks led 87-78 when Paul returned to the game with five fouls and 10:28 remaining. The lead was still eight when Paul fouled out a minute and a half later.

Mikal Bridges' basket got Phoenix within six points before Finney-Smith made consecutive 3-pointers to complete an 8-0 run that gave Dallas a 97-83 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

Dallas led by seven points when Paul went to the bench after committing his fifth foul with 9:32 left in the third quarter. Shortly after Paul's departure, the Mavericks scored seven straight points for a 75-63 lead.

Booker scored six points to help Phoenix trim the lead to four, but Dallas scored the last five points to push the lead to 87-78 at the end of the quarter.

Finney-Smith and Bertans each made two 3-pointers as the Mavericks turned a 19-13 lead into a 37-25 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Bertans made consecutive 3-pointers and Dinwiddie added another as they built a 46-29 lead.

Crowder made back-to-back 3-pointers and Paul added five points as Phoenix closed within 54-48.

Doncic made seven free throws as Dallas rebuilt the lead to 68-56 at halftime. His last two free throws came after Paul committed his fourth foul with one second left.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Dallas Mavericks

Mavs look to contain Suns' Chris Paul again in Game 4

May 7, 2022, 4:31 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks broke through at home Friday night and beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

They'll try to even the best-of-seven series when they host the Suns again Sunday afternoon.

"The energy and the execution were better," Mavericks star Luka Doncic said of the team's dramatic improvement after two losses in Phoenix. "That's what we've got to do every game.

"We're going to believe until the end. Somebody's got to get to four wins, and no matter if you're down or you're up, you've got to believe."

Dallas won 103-94 after allowing an average of 125 points in the first two games. The improved defense was triggered by a swarming attack that slowed down Suns guard Chris Paul as Phoenix had its lowest-scoring game of the season.

Paul scored 19 points in Game 1 and had 28 in Game 2 in which he made 9 of 10 second-half field-goal attempts. But Reggie Bullock set a different tone Friday against Paul, who committed seven first-half turnovers as the Mavericks ended an 11-game losing streak against Phoenix.

"Reggie's done this for us all season," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "He's always been asked to guard one of the two best players. He never complains. He gives everything."

Doncic finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds as he got more offensive support than he had in the two losses when he scored a combined 80 points.

Jalen Brunson recovered from two poor games in Phoenix to lead Dallas with 28 points and three other Mavs scored in double figures.

"I found a way to bounce back," Brunson said. "I just can't be satisfied with this. Sunday's going to be another brutal game. I have to bring the same energy, the same intensity, the same everything."

Paul, who turned 37 on Friday, matched the number of turnovers he had in Games 1 and 2 combined even though he didn't have a turnover in the second half Friday.

"It felt like all seven of 'em were back to back to back," Paul said. "If I don't turn the ball over like that I feel like it's a different game."

The Suns shot just 44.7 percent from the floor, the first time in nine playoff games they failed to make at least half of their shots.

"It wasn't like us," said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who scored 18 points. "You can credit them. They came out played hard, played desperate. That's that. We've got a series."

Jae Crowder led the Suns with 19 points and Paul finished with 12 points after taking just nine shots (making five).

Dallas expects a performance from Paul on Sunday that resembles what he did in the first two games more than what happened in Game 3.

"His basketball IQ is off the charts," Kidd said. "And he understands at this point of his career what's at stake and that's winning the championship. And that's what he's going for.

"He understands how to play the game. He picks his spots. He doesn't have to do it for 48 minutes. He doesn't have to do it for 36 minutes. He understands when it's winning time and he's delivered."

--Field Level Media

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks

NBA fines Mavericks $25K over 'bench decorum' in Game 2

May 6, 2022, 9:52 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks were fined $25,000 by the NBA on Friday after being declared in violation of "rules regarding team bench decorum" during Wednesday's playoff loss against the Phoenix Suns.

The punishment was announced by the NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell.

The league said numerous players along with one member of the Dallas coaching staff failed to follow protocols and remain in designated bench areas during the Suns' 129-109 win in Game 2 in Phoenix. Per the league, the guilty group "stood away from Dallas' team bench and were on or encroaching upon the playing court during game action."

With the loss, the Mavericks trail their Western Conference semifinal series 2-0 with Game 3 to be played Friday night in Dallas.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns

Suns favored to build 3-0 lead at Mavericks

May 6, 2022, 6:24 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

In their first-round Western Conference playoff series win over the Utah Jazz, the Dallas Mavericks allowed just 99 points per game, keeping Utah under 100 points three times.

But the top-seeded Phoenix Suns have been much more difficult to stop, averaging 125 points in taking a 2-0 lead in the conference semifinals.

They're also favorites entering Game 3, backed by 83 percent of the handle at -1.0 points at DraftKings and 87 percent at -1.5 points at BetMGM.

If fourth-seeded Dallas is to make Phoenix sweat, it's going to have to tighten up its defense, beginning with Game 3 of the seven-game series on Friday night in Dallas.

For starters, the Mavericks will need to force tougher shots. The Suns have canned at least 50 percent from the field in all eight playoff games, including a blistering 64.5 percent Wednesday night in a 129-109 Game 2 win.

That included a 13 of 25 performance from the 3-point line, which upped Phoenix's effective field goal percentage over 73 percent. And in the fourth quarter, which started with the Suns nursing an 89-83 advantage, they were 16 of 19 from the field.

"We have good players," Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. "I'd love to sit here and tell you I'm moving the chess pieces around, but we have good players who can knock down shots."

Devin Booker scored a team-high 30 for the Suns and Chris Paul added 28, going 6 of 7 from the field for 14 points in the fourth quarter. Paul and Booker led the way as Phoenix turned a close game into a 122-95 advantage, then coasted to the finish line.

Despite his team's inability to string together stops consistently, Dallas coach Jason Kidd is pointing the finger at the Mavericks' imbalance on offense. Luka Doncic scored 45 in Game 1 and 35 more on Wednesday night, but there's not been enough help.

"We got to get other guys shooting the ball better," Kidd said. "We can't win with just him scoring 30 a night, not at this time of year. And we're playing the best team in the league. We got to get other guys going."

Two guys in particular that Kidd wants to see get off the mark are Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie. Those guards, along with forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell, have combined to score fewer points (66) than Doncic in the first two games. They also have fewer assists (12) than Doncic (15).

"We got to get JB and Spencer a rhythm and get them good shots for Game 3," Kidd said.

It might be fair to wonder if it matters what Dallas does when it plays the Suns. Wednesday night's result was Phoenix's 11th consecutive victory over the Mavericks. And it also extended the Suns' perfect streak when leading after three quarters. They are 52-0 this season, counting the playoffs.

When asked about his big fourth quarter Wednesday night, Paul's words could have also explained why Phoenix has been such a good closing team.

"You've just got to lean on the work," he said. "It all goes back to the work. You can't cheat the game. You've got to do the strength and conditioning, you've got to lift, you've got to get your rest, you got to get your shots up.

"When you do that, you live with the results."

The 219.0-point Over/Under at DraftKings has seen the Over backed by 70 percent of the bets and 54 percent of the handle. The market has held at 219.5 points at BetMGM, where the Over has drawn 63 and 60 percent, respectively.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns

Suns' Game 2 odds shorten ahead of hosting Mavs

May 4, 2022, 7:12 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic put on a show in Game 1 but not enough of his Dallas Mavericks' teammates joined him on stage.

Doncic will look to make Act 2 better than the first when the Mavericks visit the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, looking to knot the Western Conference semifinal set at a game apiece.

Phoenix opened as a 5.5-point favorite at BetMGM but the line climbed to 6.5 by Wednesday with the Suns backed by 76 percent of the spread bets and 71 percent of the handle. The 6.0-point line at DraftKings has also been one-sided with Phoenix drawing 63 and 79 percent of the spread action, respectively.

Doncic recorded 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in Monday's 121-114 road loss. It was a game Dallas never led and trailed by as many as 21 before staging a frantic fourth-quarter comeback that made the score respectable.

The major problem was that Doncic was a one-man ensemble. He scored more points by himself than the rest of the Mavericks' starters combined (39).

"He got whatever he wanted, when you look at the shots in the paint, behind the arc, midrange, and then also I thought he got his teammates some great looks that we normally had made," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said afterward. "I thought he played great.

"We've just got to get someone to join the party."

Among the players on the invitation list are starter Jalen Brunson and reserve Spencer Dinwiddie.

Brunson, who averaged 27.8 points in the first round against the Utah Jazz, was just 6-of-16 shooting and scored 13 points. Dinwiddie averaged 15.3 points against Utah but had just eight in the opener against Phoenix.

Doncic said he felt Dallas didn't attack the inside enough -- the area where dominant Suns center Deandre Ayton hangs out -- and didn't do a good job making things tough for the potent Phoenix offense.

"I think our defense lost us the game," Doncic said. "Our start on the defensive end was terrible, and we've got to change that. I know we can play way better defense."

Six Suns scored in double digits led by Ayton (25 points) and Devin Booker (23).

Booker is struggling to regain his shooting stroke after missing three games in the first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans due to a right hamstring injury.

Booker was just 7-of-20 shooting in Game 1 versus the Mavericks after having 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the final game against the Pelicans.

Chris Paul contributed 19 points but was less than thrilled that Phoenix's lead of 106-85 with 8:48 remaining was whittled down to five before the club held off the Mavericks.

"We'll take the win," Paul said. "It's not always going to be pretty. We played well most of the game. We'll look at the film and see what we need to do differently for Game 2."

Phoenix will certainly do a thorough investigation of what it can do to limit Doncic's output.

The 23-year-old superstar raised his career playoff average to 33.4 points in just 17 games. The mixing and matching of defenders on him in Game 1 didn't lasso him in the least.

That means Suns coach Monty Williams will look to dig deeper into the bag of tracks for Game 2.

"Anytime a guy has 45, you look at that number and you don't like it, but I look at their assist numbers," Williams said. "They only had 16. So, (Maxi) Kleber hit some 3s, but for the most part, nobody else got going the way that they're capable of."

The Mavericks were 16 of 39 from 3-point range, with Kleber (19 points) making 5 of 8 and Doncic sinking 4 of 11.

Phoenix made 11 of 28 from behind the arc but stepped up big at the free-throw line, making all 18 attempts. The Suns were 8 of 8 in the final 47.3 seconds to thwart the Dallas comeback bid.

The Over/Under for Game 2 moved from 215.5 points to 216.5 at BetMGM with the Under backed by 59 percent of the handle but the Over drawing 60 percent of the total bets. The total is 216.0 points at DraftKings with the Over heavily supported by 78 percent of the bets and 82 percent of the handle.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Suns favored at home in Game 1 as Mavericks visit

May 2, 2022, 7:30 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Two teams hoping their top scorers can stay healthy will tip off their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Phoenix Suns for Game 1 on Monday night.

Both teams overcame the absence of their young superstars in tough first-round matchups. The Mavericks ousted the Utah Jazz, and the Suns survived the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, both winning in six games. But Dallas was without Luca Doncic and Phoenix was missing Devin Booker for three of the six contests.

Doncic missed the first three games of the Utah series with a calf strain suffered in the final week of the regular season as the Mavericks were attempting to improve upon their No. 4 seeding in the West.

The league's third-leading scorer during the regular season at 28.4 points per game, Doncic picked right up where he left off upon returning for Game 4 at Utah, scoring 30, 33 and 24 points over the final three contests, recording two double-doubles and missing a third by one rebound.

"The first game, I was a little janky," he said of his return to action. "But I felt better (in Game 5). I think the first couple of minutes I was tired, but then I was OK. I think the run in the third (quarter), I was a little tired, too, but just getting my air back."

The Mavericks clinched the series win with a 98-96 victory at Utah on Thursday, giving Doncic and his teammates three days of rest leading into the Phoenix series.

Booker suffered his injury -- a hamstring strain -- in Game 2 against the Pelicans, then sat out until Thursday's 115-109 clincher at New Orleans. He played 32 minutes in that game, contributing 13 points to the win.

Suns coach Monty Williams eased Booker back into the action by bringing him off the bench in the second half Thursday, something he doesn't plan on doing again moving forward.

"I thought we were gonna have a fistfight over there (with) the look he gave me," Williams said of breaking the news to Booker coming out of the break. "We had already talked about it, but we had to stick to the plan because it was going to be easier to finish (the game) with him and keep his minutes relatively lower."

Williams said he became convinced of Booker's good health while focused on him during the second half.

"We wanted to keep (his minutes) at about 24," the coach said, "but he didn't look like he was dragging (his leg) or laboring at all. And he told me, he said, 'Coach, I feel fine, it's strong, I have no issues.' So I left him out there."

The Suns swept the season series 3-0 from the Mavericks, with two wins coming by eight points and the third by seven. Two of the games were in Phoenix, a November back-to-back that Doncic missed with a sprained left knee and ankle.

Both Booker and Doncic scored 28 points in the lone meeting in Dallas in January, a game won 109-101 by the Suns.

All three meetings were held before the Mavericks traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie averaged 15.3 points in the Utah series.

The Suns are a consensus 5.5-point favorite ahead of Game 1. The line opened at 5.5 at BetMGM and has held steady with Phoenix backed by 59 percent of the spread bets and 65 percent of the handle.

The same line at DraftKings has seen the Suns drawing just 47 percent of the bets but 83 percent of the handle. And the 215.0-point Over/Under market at the sportsbook has seen the Over backed by 73 percent of the handle.

Phoenix is also the heavy favorite to win the series at DraftKings, where they have drawn 76 percent of the bets and 84 percent of the handle.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

NBA fines Suns $25K over injury-reporting of Devin Booker

April 30, 2022, 9:46 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns were fined $25,000 by the NBA Saturday after violating the league's injury-reporting guidelines over Devin Booker's status ahead of Game 6 against New Orleans on Thursday.

The league ruled that Phoenix did not reveal Booker's playing status "in an accurate and timely manner" before he returned to action in the Suns' first-round series clinching win over the Pelicans.

Booker, who missed the series' previous three games after suffering a Grade 1 hamstring strain in Game 2, had been upgraded to questionable earlier in the day Thursday. After testing the leg during pregame warmups, the All-Star guard started and played 32 minutes, scoring 13 points in the 115-109 Phoenix victory.

The 25-year-old Booker averaged 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the regular season in making his third straight All-Star Game appearance.

The Suns begin their second-round series at home Monday in Game 1 against the Dallas Mavericks.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks

Sportsbooks split on whether Jazz will force Game 7

April 28, 2022, 10:28 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are on the brink of elimination but at least they'll have their star player in Game 6 on Thursday night at Salt Lake City.

Despite having their star player performing at his peak again after missing a few games in this first-round series, the Dallas Mavericks know that having a 3-2 lead doesn't guarantee they will advance.

Last year's postseason disaster offers a reminder. In the 2021 first round, the Mavericks were up 3-2 against the Los Angeles Clippers before losing Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road.

"I don't even remember that. I don't even remember last year," Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith joked. "Nah, but we put ourselves in a great spot. We've just got to handle our business in Utah."

Dallas did that in Game 3, winning 126-118 at Utah to regain home-court advantage after losing Game 1 at home 99-93. Things are vastly different a week later.

The Jazz have held steady as 1.5-point favorites in Game 6 at BetMGM, but they are 1.0-point underdogs at DraftKings and PointsBet.

It speaks to the unpredictability of this competitive series.

Dallas had been backed by 74 percent of the spread handle at BetMGM hours before tipoff. The Mavericks have also been the focus of one-sided spread action at DraftKings (81 percent of the handle) and PointsBet (81 percent), where Dallas opened as 2.5-point favorites in Game 6.

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has been dominant since returning from a calf injury that sidelined him for the first three games.

Meanwhile, Utah's most explosive scorer, Donovan Mitchell, declared himself ready to play Thursday night amid a leg injury.

"I'm good to go," Mitchell said Wednesday. "I'll be ready."

This series has been so unpredictable, with Jalen Brunson suddenly playing like an All-Star, the usually sharpshooting Jazz misfiring from deep at historic levels and elite players from each team with injuries.

Mitchell limped off the court and grabbed at his hamstring with 4:55 to play Monday. An ensuing MRI was negative, and Mitchell was optimistic he'll play through his bilateral quadriceps contusions.

Mitchell also believes the Jazz will return to form after only hitting 3 of 30 from 3-point range in the 102-77 Game 5 blowout loss.

Not only was that the worst 3-point field-goal percentage in Jazz history (minimum 20 attempts), it was the least-accurate performance in NBA postseason history (minimum 25 attempts), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

"I don't think we've ever shot this poorly as a group," Mitchell said. "So, we'll bounce back and go from there."

The way Dallas has played for most of this series will require a very large bounce-back by Utah.

Doncic pushed the Mavericks into the series lead with 33 points and 13 rebounds in Game 5 after totaling 30 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the 100-99 Game 4 loss at Utah.

"The first game, I was a little janky," Doncic said. "But I felt better (Monday). I think the first couple of minutes I was tired, but then I was OK. I think the run in the third I was a little tired, too, but just getting my air back."

Dallas is looking to get past the first round for the first time since winning the NBA championship in 2011. That Clippers series last year was the first time in nine occasions that the Mavs blew a 3-2 lead.

Doncic said the Mavericks just need to play like they did Monday.

"I think our defense was amazing, the energy was high and we played hard," he said. "That's the way we've got to play, and that's how we win the next game."

If not, Game 7 will take place Saturday at Dallas.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns

Suns road favorites to eliminate Pelicans in Game 6

April 28, 2022, 10:18 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

The top-seeded Phoenix Suns have had a fight on their hands in their Western Conference first-round series.

Leading scorer Devin Booker has not played since coming away with a hamstring strain in the third quarter of Game 2 and they have lost twice in the series to the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans. However, Booker was upgraded to questionable on Thursday and is expected to play.

The Suns can advance to the conference semifinals if they beat the Pelicans in Game 6 on Thursday night at New Orleans. They are consensus 2.5-point favorites in Game 6. That includes at BetMGM, where they have been backed by 72 percent of the spread handle, as well as at DraftKings (83 percent).

Phoenix opened as a 2.5-point favorite at PointsBet but the line shifted to 2.0 with the Pelicans drawing 61 percent of the spread handle hours before tip-off.

Phoenix moved to the brink of advancing with a 112-97 home victory in Game 5 on Thursday night. Mikal Bridges scored a career playoff-high 31 points, played 47 minutes and helped hold Pelicans leading scorer CJ McCollum to 7-of-22 shooting.

"I'm ready to play tomorrow, man," Bridges said. "I'm teed up. I'm energized."

Bridges, who hasn't missed a game in his four-year NBA career, gave the Suns offense a lift in the absence of Booker by making 12 of 17 shots.

Booker was not expected to play in Game 6. However, ESPN reported Wednesday that it's possible Booker could return, given how well his hamstring is progressing.

"He doesn't miss games, he guards the best players every night and then he has 31 (points)," teammate Chris Paul said.

Paul bounced back from Game 4, when he tied his career playoff low with four points, to score 22 in Game 5 with 11 assists. Bridges took some pressure off Paul by adding five rebounds, a career-high four blocks and two steals.

"You can't clone him, but you wish you could," Suns coach Monty Williams said of Bridges. "He's just one of those rare basketball players that can play that way on defense, but also give you the point production that he gave tonight."

The Suns built a 12-point lead in the first quarter, led by as many as 17 in the second quarter and never led by fewer than seven points in the second half.

"They came out ready and we didn't," said Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds, after having 26 and 15 in Game 4 at home.

Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 22 points but crashed to the floor late in the game and moments later grabbed his right arm while losing control of the basketball. New Orleans made just one field goal in the final five minutes and none in the final three.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said Ingram would be evaluated when the team got back to New Orleans.

"We made some timely mistakes No. 1, starting with the turnovers," Green added. "(We had) 15 turnovers for 23 points. That fuels their team, that fuels their transition opportunities. That's an area where we know we have to be better. If we do, it's a totally different game for us."

McCollum missed seven of the eight 3-point shots he took as the Pelicans finished 5 of 25 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.

"I thought (the Suns) did a good job of coming out, playing desperate," Green said. "They played hard, they competed. They kind of knocked us on our heels early.

"Give them credit. They did what they needed to do on their home floor. We're heading back to New Orleans, and we'll be ready to play."

The Pelicans, who won elimination games against the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the play-in tournament, will try to force a Game 7 on Saturday night at Phoenix.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Devin Booker upgraded, expected to play in G6

April 28, 2022, 10:06 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker has been upgraded to questionable and is expected to play in Thursday night's Game 6 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Booker will test his strained right hamstring during pregame warmups and will play, if all goes well, per ESPN.

The Suns lead the Western Conference first-round series 3-2 and could close it out in New Orleans.

Booker suffered a Grade 1 strain to the hamstring in Game 2 of the series, a 125-114 loss to the Pelicans on April 19. He scored 31 points -- all in the first half -- before leaving the game with 4:45 left in the third period.

The 25-year-old Booker averaged 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the regular season. The Suns were 8-6 without him in the lineup.

Booker has a history of hamstring issues. He missed seven games this season because of a left hamstring strain.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Report: Devin Booker (hamstring) could be back for G6

April 27, 2022, 11:26 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is progressing from his hamstring injury and it's possible he could return for Thursday night's Game 6 against the New Orleans Pelicans, ESPN reported Wednesday.

The Suns lead the Western Conference first-round series 3-2 and could close it out in New Orleans.

Booker is expected to be listed as out for the game, initially.

Booker suffered a Grade 1 strain to his right hamstring in Game 2 of the series, with ESPN reporting he could be out 2-3 weeks.

Booker suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Suns' 125-114 loss to the Pelicans on April 19. He scored 31 points before leaving the game with 4:45 left in the period.

The 25-year-old Booker averaged 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the regular season. The Suns were 8-6 without him in the lineup.

Booker has a history of hamstring issues. He missed seven games this season because of a left hamstring strain.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Pelicans well-backed Game 5 underdogs at Suns

April 26, 2022, 7:37 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

After securing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns are headed home in an unexpected situation with the No. 8 seed New Orleans Pelicans in their first-round playoff series: tied 2-2 entering Game 5.

The best-of-seven series has turned into a best-of-three series starting Tuesday night in Phoenix. The Pelicans tied the series with a 118-103 home victory against the Suns on Sunday night.

"We know Game 5 is going to be a dogfight and we've got to be ready to play," guard CJ McCollum said after scoring 18 points and pulling down nine rebounds for New Orleans. "This is a championship-caliber team who's been there before, but on the bright side, we understand what to expect. This is a great opportunity for us to learn, to grow and to play in a hostile environment."

The Pelicans are 6.5-point underdogs entering that hostile environment. However, they had been backed by 58 percent of the spread bets and 76 percent of the handle at BetMGM as of Tuesday afternoon and 59 and 89 percent, respectively, at DraftKings.

Brandon Ingram scored 16 of his 30 points in the pivotal third quarter and became the first Pelicans player to score 30 points in three consecutive playoff games.

"Brandon is playing some of his best basketball of the season, and he's doing it on the biggest stage, and it's great to see," New Orleans coach Willie Green said. "I'm just trying to move out of the way and let him do his thing."

Center Jonas Valanciunas bounced back from a poor performance in Game 3 to add a career playoff-high 26 points and 15 rebounds.

"It's fun to play this way, when everyone's touching the ball, moving, and finding the teammates open, setting loose screens," Valanciunas said. "That's such a good feeling to play this way -- on top of winning the game."

New Orleans held star guard Chris Paul to four points on 2-of-8 shooting. He had 11 assists, but didn't attempt a free throw.

"We just tried to throw different looks at him, be aggressive, try denying him the ball at times," Green said. "(It was) having more of a mindset and a focus on not allowing Chris in the fourth quarter to dominate the game, which he's done and is capable of doing."

Paul was without his backcourt mate, All-Star Devin Booker, who strained his right hamstring in Game 2 and averaged 26.8 points per game on the regular season. He is not expected to return this series.

"We can't worry about whether Book comes back," Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. "Obviously, we need Book back, but that's not why we lost the game. They played much harder than we did."

Williams also noted the difference in free throws attempted in what was a very physical game. The Pelicans shot 42 free throws (making 32) and the Suns shot 15 (making 10).

"They outplayed us; they deserve to win," Williams said. "(But) that's a free throw disparity that you have to look at."

New Orleans outrebounded Phoenix for the fourth straight game, 48-39. They are averaging 47.8 rebounds per game in the postseason.

"They were the aggressor tonight," Paul said. "They came out and made all of the big plays. They outrebounded us again."

The third quarter was again significant for the Pelicans, who outscored the Suns 35-23 behind Ingram. New Orleans has outscored Phoenix by at least nine points in each third quarter for a cumulative advantage of 137-93 in the third quarters.

"They for sure played with more urgency and grit than we did," Williams said. "The third quarter, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to be productive in that quarter, whether it's missing shots or not getting stops, but it's been a trend in this series."

Game 5 in Phoenix has the lowest Over/Under point total of the three playoff games Tuesday night.

The market opened at 216.5 points at BetMGM before shifting to 215.5 with 72 percent of the bets and 78 percent of the handle supporting the Over. The same 216.5-point total at DraftKings had seen 74 and 68 percent of the action support the Over.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans

Suns' Monty Williams fined $15K for comments on officiating

April 26, 2022, 5:26 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams was fined $15,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for public criticism of the officiating.

Williams' comments came on the heels of the top-seeded Suns' 118-103 loss to the eighth-seeded New Orleans Hornets on Sunday in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round series. The teams are tied at two wins apiece heading into Game 5 on Tuesday in Phoenix.

Williams took issue with the Suns finding themselves on the business end of a 42-15 free-throw disparity in Game 4.

"Coaches shouldn't have to come up to the microphone and feel like they're going to get their heads cut off for speaking the truth," Williams said. "It was 17-to-2 (free throw difference) in the first half. And then they end up with 42.

"That's hard to do in a game like that. And it's not like we don't attack the basket."

The Pelicans have attempted 119 free throws thus far in the series. The Suns, in turn, have 81 attempts.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz

Mavericks well-backed favorites ahead of Game 5 vs. Jazz

April 25, 2022, 8:13 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic was just 40 seconds away from having a storybook ending to his first game of the 2022 playoffs.

The Dallas Mavericks' superstar had scored 30 points, including a step-back 3-pointer with 39.6 seconds left, and hauled in 10 rebounds with four assists after missing the three previous first-round games against the Utah Jazz due to a strained left calf.

"I missed basketball," Doncic said. "I'm just excited to be back. Playing basketball is having fun. What can be better than playoff basketball? I'm just excited to be back."

Game 4 did turn out to be somewhat of a storybook ending -- just not for Doncic and the Mavs, who lost to the Jazz 100-99 and host Utah in Game 5 on Monday night in Dallas with the series tied 2-2.

After Doncic gave Dallas a seemingly safe four-point lead -- only four teams had rallied out of a similar deficit with 40 seconds left in the past 10 postseasons -- everything went the Jazz's way.

With 31.2 seconds remaining, Donovan Mitchell rebounded his own miss for a putback layup and then hit the ensuing free throw after being fouled by Doncic.

With 19.8 to go, Mitchell fouled Dwight Powell, and the Mavericks big man missed both attempts.

Rudy Gobert snared a rebound and, with 11 seconds remaining, Mitchell made a lob pass to Gobert for an alley-oop dunk that was reminiscent of a Stockton-to-Malone play.

In half a minute, the Mavs went from being up four to trailing by one. Dallas chose to advance the ball full court after a timeout, and the Utah defense forced Jalen Brunson and a double-teamed Doncic into deferring the final attempt.

Spencer Dinwiddie's rushed buzzer-beating attempt from the deep elbow sealed the series-tying win for Utah.

"We didn't really execute it well," Doncic said. "We should've gotten a better shot."

Brunson said the Mavs "can't hang our heads" after losing a game in which they overcame Utah's 16-point lead in the first half.

"We actually are in a great position. Utah's in a great position. It's best-of-three now," Brunson said. "We've got to go out there, play our style of basketball, play together, and that's basically what we've got to keep doing."

Dallas is a 2.5-point favorite ahead of Game 5 at BetMGM, where the Mavericks have drawn one-sided support with 88 percent of the spread bets and 87 percent of the handle. The line is 2.0 at DraftKings, with the Mavericks backed by 69 and 81 percent of the action, respectively.

Health-wise, Doncic said his calf felt good, but his conditioning was a bit off after missing two weeks.

The Jazz, who've been surrounded by rumors of chemistry issues, were happy to see that an energetic defensive performance and unselfish basketball paid off to prolong a postseason that seemed perilously close to ending early.

Utah cherished the Mitchell-to-Gobert connection after much had been made on social media about the All-Star guard being unwilling to pass to the All-Star center.

"I think it's funny. It wasn't even the first pass. There was a bunch of them," Mitchell said. "It feels good. You hear it. I don't think he and I sit here and think there's nothing, but you hear it. And it's good to see that and do it on a stage like that."

Mitchell finished with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Gobert contributed 17 points and 15 rebounds. It's clear the Jazz need both All-Stars to play well, and play well together.

It also helped to get a defensive effort like Bojan Bogdanovic gave, along with the offensive outburst provided by 2021 Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson, who led Utah with 25 points.

"We gave everything we had. It started with Bojan pressuring the ball, and then it became all of us -- Jordan, Don, Mike (Conley), everyone -- everyone that came to the game was playing with intensity, defensively," Gobert said. "We can feel it. Regardless of what happens at the end of the game, if you play that way, you deserve to win."

The 212.5-point Over/Under at BetMGM has seen the Over backed by 52 percent of the bets and 82 percent of the handle. The market is 213.0 points at DraftKings, with the Over also drawing significant support with 71 and 63 percent of the action, respectively.

--Field Level Media

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks

Report: Luka Doncic to attempt return in Game 4

April 23, 2022, 6:52 PM

Photo Credit - USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic will take part in pregame warmups and could play in Game 4 against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, barring any setbacks, according to a report from ESPN.

Also, the Mavericks upgraded Doncic from questionable to probable prior to the contest.

The network reported "increasing optimism" that Doncic will make his series debut. He has missed the first three games because of a left calf strain.

Doncic will play limited minutes if he is cleared to return, ESPN reported. He has been out since April 10.

In 65 games during the regular season, Doncic averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists.

The Mavericks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1 heading into Game 4.

--Field Level Media