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How Phoenix Can Slow Down Luka Doncic?

With their win against the Dallas Mavericks 129-109 Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns took advantage of their home court and gained a commanding 2-0 lead heading to Dallas. 

Although Phoenix dominated the first two games, the play of Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic has been keeping Dallas in these games. He’s doing everything he can to keep this series competitive against the defending Western Conference Champions. 

Doncic is averaging  40 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists against Phoenix. He also has incredible shooting splits, shooting 53.8% from the field on 26 shots per game and 42.9% from three. 

Although the Suns have done a good job on secondary scorers Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwidde, Luka’s ability to take over a game could be a factor coming into Games Three and Four, especially with the fact that both games will be played in Dallas. When looking at Luka’s averages at home this season, in 34 games, he’s averaged 29.9 points, nine rebounds and 8.7 assists. 

So far, the Suns have put different defenders on Luka in order to switch up on his attacks to the basket. With Suns’ defenders such as Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridge, Cam Johnson and even Chris Paul all switching onto Doncic, Luka is forced to create shots with different styles of defense against him. 

However, Luka has not been fazed by this. He has found his shots from all over while still playmaking off the dribble for open teammates. Due to this, the Suns should look to have one primary defender on Luka, with the obvious choice being Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, Bridges. 

If Bridges is the primary defender, it will take him out of rotations on defense, as he will prioritize not giving Luka any space to work with. This puts pressure on the other four defenders around Bridges, as Doncic is deadly with his shot and playmaking ability. The other four defenders will have to stay close to their man and not give them open looks which is how the Dallas offense thrives.

Dallas’ roster is built so that almost every player is capable of hitting a three, including big men Maxi Kleber and Davis Bertans, who each shot at a higher percentage against the Suns at home. Although the Suns helping off the dribble is important, they will have to stay close to their man knowing Luka’s ability to facilitate for his teammates making even the tough passes look easy. 

When trying to accomplish both slowing down Luka’s drives to the basket as well as his passes to the perimeter to find an open teammate, the Suns should emphasize stunting in order to stop the ball and closing out to shooters quickly. Bridges is a good enough defender where if he finds himself behind Luka, a quick stunt would be able to slow him down and allow enough time for Bridges to find himself back in control. However, closing out after will be the difference for Phoenix as Doncic can quickly find the open man. 

As stated before, Game Three is a pivotal game in any NBA playoff series. In this case a Suns lead puts them one game away from reaching the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. However, a Dallas win can spark the Mavs and gives them confidence in tying the series with Game Four being a home game. Being able to stop Luka will be the difference in this game and the series looking forward. 

Phoenix will look to go up 3-0 on Friday night at 6:30p.m. 

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