Game 7 thrashing: Doncic, Mavericks dominate Suns, win by 33 (and it wasn’t that close)

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Looking back on an epic Game 7 blowout, it’s hard to find one image, one statistic that sums everything up. Maybe it was:

Chris Paul and Devin Booker started 0-of-11 shooting while Luka Doncic was 9-of-12.
• The halftime score of Doncic 27, Suns 27 (the Mavericks as a team had 57).
• That the Suns were 3-of-14 from 3 and 5-of-20 in the paint in the first half.
• The fact the Mavericks poured it on in the third and led the game by as many as 46.

Or maybe it’s this: For the second year in a row, the Suns led a series 2-0 and found a way to lose it.

The 64-win Suns, in a season that may have been their best chance to win a title with this core, simply didn’t show up for Game 7 at home. There’s no other way to put it.

Luka Doncic showed up and scored 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting, 6-of-11 from 3, plus grabbed 10 boards to lead a 123-90 blowout win from the Mavericks.

The Mavericks will hop on a plane to San Francisco and take on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, starting Wednesday. Dallas will provide a better defense and, with Doncic, a stiffer test than Golden State has seen this postseason.

Phoenix now heads into the offseason with more questions than was expected a couple of weeks ago. Is Chris Paul showing his age (37), and do they need to find a backup and a way to limit his minutes? How does this team get mentally tougher? And the front office needs to get them physically tougher after the Mavericks pushed them around the final few games. The young Suns will grow from this experience (and growth is rarely linear, steps back are normal), but some changes also need to be made.

Maybe it was simply one of those one-off bad games for the Suns, but the timing could not have been worse.

It’s tempting to lay this beatdown all on the Suns — and they played terribly — but that would be a disservice to a Mavericks team that showed its grit in this series. They were down 0-2 and found a way to get Jalen Brunson more involved, space the floor better with Maxi Kleber, and, most importantly, adjust their defense to take away the midrange shots that fuel the Suns.

Specifically, the Mavs worked to keep Booker in check, with CP3 the secondary consideration. Dallas dared others to create shots and beat them, and nobody on the Suns stepped up. Phoenix was bigger than Dallas and should have been able to pound them inside and on the glass, but Deandre Ayton had five points in Game 7, plus just four rebounds in 17 minutes. He did not play like a max player as he heads into an offseason restricted free agency and his push for a big contract.

Doncic was a force in this series. Phoenix has an All-Defensive Team player in Mikal Bridges, but he could not slow the Dallas star. More than not being able to stop him, there was no Suns defender able to slow him down or make him think twice about a strategy. Nobody struck any fear in him. The best example: At one point in the second quarter Doncic backed Ayton down and scored over him with a little midrange fadaway in the paint.

That summed up this game: Doncic and the Mavericks did whatever they wanted and the Suns had no answers.

Which will make for a long, hot offseason in the Valley of the Sun.