DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and the Dallas Mavericks turned up the defensive pressure to get back in their Western Conference semifinal series with Phoenix, beating the Suns 103-94 on Friday night.
The Mavericks spoiled Chris Paul’s 37th birthday, forcing the 17-year pro into his most turnovers in any half of a playoff game with seven before the break.
Dallas cut the Suns’ series lead to 2-1 and ended an 11-game losing streak against Phoenix, regular season included. Game 4 is Sunday in Dallas.
Paul didn’t have any more turnovers after halftime, but the Suns finally struggled with their shooting when they weren’t turning it over. Phoenix shot 45%, ending a run of at least 50% shooting in the playoffs at eight games.
Doncic just missed a triple-double with nine assists, while Jalen Brunson led Dallas with 28 points after struggling in the two losses in Phoenix when Doncic averaged 40 points but didn’t get enough help.
Jae Crowder scored 19 for Phoenix, but the Mavericks limited the impact of Devin Booker in much the same way they did Paul. Booker scored 18 but was just 2 of 7 inside the 3-point line, and Paul had 12 on just nine shots (five made).
A scrambling Dallas defense was the reason, starting from the opening tip with Reggie Bullock shadowing Paul everywhere. The Mavericks stepped into passing lanes, including when Spencer Dinwiddie tipped along the sideline after a steal for a layup in transition.
Paul had six turnovers in the first 16 minutes, including one when he simply lost the ball out bounds trying to work his way to the basket. The only Dallas turnover before halftime was an offensive foul on Doncic, who disliked the call enough to mimic what he thought were flopping movements by Paul.
Doncic had to leave with his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, and the Suns cut an 18-point deficit earlier in the second half to nine just after he came back.
Brunson answered with free throws to get the lead back to double digits, and the Mavericks got enough stops in their best defensive effort of the series to stay comfortably in front.
The lead was eight when Doncic kept Crowder from getting a steal near midcourt with a minute remaining, leading to a corner 3 with from Bullock, who scored 15. He and Dorian Finney-Smith, who scored 14, had four 3s each.
Suns: Mikal Bridges was called for a technical foul late in the first half, and Paul got one early in the second. Both came going into timeouts. … Torrey Craig was out with a right elbow contusion. I have played sparingly in the first two games of the series.
Mavericks: Bullock, who spent plenty of time guarding Paul in the first half, was reported as questionable with a rib injury at halftime. … Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley, a former Dallas assistant, attended the game. Two of his players, Cole Anthony and Wendell Carter Jr., were with him.
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