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Suns-Mavericks Game 6 preview: A stage for stars or more of the same?

Will Game 6 between the Suns and Mavericks be about star power or is the series going to keep being determined by depth?

DALLAS — There’s nothing like a potential closeout game with star power and we will be treated to that on Thursday evening in Dallas for the Phoenix Suns’ Game 6 against the Mavericks with a 3-2 series lead.

In the last two situations the Suns have gone up 3-2 and went on the road with a chance to close out a series, Devin Booker dropped 47 points versus the Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul advanced the Suns past the Los Angeles Clippers to the NBA Finals with 31 of his 41 points in the second half.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic is 0-2 when facing elimination but is averaging 42.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 11.5 assists per game across those two contests on 55.2% shooting.

For a series that has mostly been swung by which team’s depth steps up, Thursday might just come down to those three excellent basketball players.

But let’s assume the supporting casts will continue to have a large impact.

The dramatic difference between the two groups in wins and losses persisted in Tuesday’s Game 5. Phoenix got great minutes from the likes of Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson and Landry Shamet. Dallas, meanwhile, had 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting from Jalen Brunson, and, erm, 10 points via Davis Bertans?

In Games 3 and 4, Mavericks wing duo Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith went a combined 18-of-38 from 3-point range but posted a 2-of-8 mark as a duo on Tuesday.

The Suns fixed whatever the heck they were trying and failing at from Game 4 with helping too much off shooters, and instead, forced Dallas’ ball-handlers to beat them 1-on-1.

The most important addition to that equation was the best on-ball defense the Suns have played in this series.

This is the Suns defense I am used to. Keep the ball in front by fighting through screens & sending drivers to the help. Great late dig big Jae.

(Take note of the score for later use) pic.twitter.com/juTspL7Tap

— David (@theIVpointplay) May 11, 2022

When the Suns got off the ball a bit and switched through rotations, they were crisp and back to what we’ve come to expect.

Watch the closeouts from Bridges, Crowder and Paul here on the perimeter in recovery once Doncic’s gravity sucks everyone in.

This is the Suns defense I am used to. Keep the ball in front by fighting through screens & sending drivers to the help. Great late dig big Jae.

(Take note of the score for later use) pic.twitter.com/juTspL7Tap

— David (@theIVpointplay) May 11, 2022

Just wonderful stuff.

In two different examples here, the first shows how the Suns were helping on Doncic and others, just late in the possession once a potential shot was going up.

As our Australian correspondent David notes, the second is tremendous work by Booker to stick through the handoff and then Paul’s closeout is aces.

Now Brunson tries Cam. Booker does a great job staying attached on the handoff & Paul makes a good read off ball.

(It's been 5 minutes since the Mavs last scored) pic.twitter.com/t9aYSv8H5W

— David (@theIVpointplay) May 11, 2022

This helped the Suns tremendously in two keys to keep an eye on for Game 6.

Phoenix generated 24 points off the Mavs’ 18 turnovers after it had a combined 24 points off turnovers in Games 3 and 4. Secondly, the Suns held Dallas to only two second-chance points after they allowed at least 15+ in the last three games.

If we see anywhere close to this level of defense in Dallas on Thursday, start making plans for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in Phoenix.

Shamet was right in there with that defensive intensity. As Williams said after Game 5, he’s an underrated defender.

Look at Landry go! pic.twitter.com/cgytLRaJ96

— David (@theIVpointplay) May 11, 2022

Williams made a bold decision to not only sit backup point guard Cam Payne but play Shamet in a role where he’s bringing the ball up a fair bit, something Shamet rarely if ever did in the regular season.

Now, I can hear a few of you rolling your eyes already at the notion of benching Payne as “bold.” But here’s the thing. As I’ve said numerous times in this space the last calendar year, the Suns do not make the Finals last year without Payne’s strong play. He’s a change-of-pace sparkplug for this group and getting back there again would be a whole lot easier with him returning to form.

But what if Shamet can actually play this role?

It never came close to coming to fruition in the regular season but I wrote about Shamet’s untapped potential in the NBA as a point guard and how Williams’ familiarity could help the Suns unlock that.

“Well, I can’t say there was much comfort,” Williams joked after practice on Wednesday when asked about how comfortable he was with playing Shamet in that role. “It’s a playoff game. A bit of a risk, but in my opinion, you have to take come calculated risks at times to do what we want to do. The defensive side of the ball was what I saw from him. His ability to stay in front of the ball and be disciplined and not foul.

“And then we know he can make shots. He played the point guard position a little bit in college and I had him in Philly and knew that about him so I knew he could handle the ball and facilitate if we needed him to.”

This is the guy we thought we’d be seeing!

Shamet’s contributions on Tuesday were ginormous and it came with the sharpshooter going 1-of-3 from deep. He’s solid enough to not require big shooting nights in order to be a big-time plus on the court.

The Suns getting that in the rotation at the backup guard spot was a huge deal and Shamet will need to remain consistent for Phoenix to get what it needs out of that spot.

Follow @KellanOlson

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