The Mavericks defend home court in Game 3 and win against the Suns

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DALLAS — Luka Doncic got the help he and the Dallas Mavericks needed — from Jalen Brunson on offense and himself, Reggie Bullock and others on defense.

The Dallas superstar had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and the Mavericks ramped up defensive pressure to return in their Western Conference semifinals series with Phoenix, beating the Suns 103-94 on Friday night.

The Mavericks spoiled Chris Paul’s 37th birthday, forcing the 17-year-old pro to have his most turnovers in each half of a playoff game with seven before the break.

Dallas cut the Suns’ lead to 2-1, ending an 11-game losing streak against Phoenix, including the regular season. Game 4 is in Dallas on Sunday.

“Energy, man,” Doncic said of the best Dallas defensive line in the series. “The audience gets you going. The energy and execution were better. We have to do that in every game.”

Paul ran out of turnovers after halftime, but the Suns eventually struggled with their shooting when they didn’t turn it. Phoenix shot 45 percent, ending a run of at least 50% shooting in the playoffs after eight games.

Luka Doncic reacts during the Mavericks’ Game 3 win over the Suns.
NBAE via Getty Images

“It felt like all seven were back to back to back,” said Paul, whose career best playoff game is eight turnovers. “When I’m not flipping the ball like that, I feel like it’s a different game.”

Jae Crowder scored 19 for Phoenix, but the Mavericks limited Devin Booker’s impact in the same way Paul did. Booker scored 18 goals but was only 2 of 7 within the 3-point line, and Paul had 12 with just nine shots (five of them) in the Suns’ lowest-scoring game of the season.

Doncic narrowly missed a triple-double with nine assists while Brunson led Dallas with 28 points after struggling in the two Phoenix losses when Doncic averaged 40 points but didn’t get enough help.

“I found a way to get back on my feet tonight,” Brunson said. “I just can’t be satisfied with that. Sunday will be another brutal game. I have to bring the same energy, the same intensity, the same everything.”

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson finished the game with a game-high 28 points.
NBAE via Getty Images

A scrambling Dallas defense was the biggest difference, starting with the opening spear where Bullock shadowed Paul all over. The Mavericks entered the fast lane, even as Spencer Dinwiddie alternately tiptoed along the touchline after a steal for a layup.

Paul had six turnovers in the first 16 minutes, including one when he simply lost the ball trying to work his way to the basket. Dallas’ only turnover before halftime was an offensive foul on Doncic, who disliked the call enough to mimic what he thought were flop moves from Paul.

The Suns targeted Doncic’s defense as they shot 84% to pull away for a 20-point Game 2 victory in the fourth quarter. The 23-year-old Slovenian showed up early in the game, winning a fight with Deandre Ayton for a loose ball.

“When you see your best player do that, it’s kind of fun,” said Dorian Finney-Smith.

Doncic had to go early in the fourth quarter with his fifth foul, and the Suns reduced an 18-point deficit to nine earlier in the second half shortly after he came back.

Brunson responded with free throws to bring the lead back into double digits and the Mavericks got enough stops to stay comfortably ahead.

The lead was eight when Doncic stopped Crowder from getting a steal near midfield with a minute left, resulting in a corner 3 with Bullock scoring 15. He and Finney-Smith, who scored 14, had four 3s apiece.

“It wasn’t like us,” Booker said. “You can credit them. They came out, played hard, played desperate. That’s that. We have a series.” The Mavericks defend home court in Game 3 and win against the Suns

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