The Phoenix Suns are one victory away from a second straight trip to the Western Conference finals.
To clinch a spot on Thursday night, they have to do something they haven’t yet done in this series: Win in Dallas against the Mavericks.
The Suns lost Games 3 and 4 in Dallas and aim to become the first road team to win in the best-of-seven conference semifinal series. They hold a 3-2 series lead after blistering the Mavericks 110-80 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Dallas guard Jalen Brunson is hopeful that the home trend will continue in Game 6.
“I guess it’s a credit to the fan bases,” Brunson said. “Our fan base is great for us. Their fan base is great for them.
“Home-court advantage is a real thing. Respect to both fan bases for making it difficult for the away team.”
Despite Phoenix’s lack of success in Dallas, the Suns are 1.5-point favorites at BetMGM and backed by 87 percent of the spread bets and 92 percent of the handle. The 2.0-point line at DraftKings has also seen one-sided action with Phoenix drawing 81 percent of the spread bets and 75 percent of the handle.
Suns point guard Chris Paul understands the challenge his club faces Thursday.
“That Game 3 and 4, it really bothered us a lot,” Paul said of the two setbacks in Dallas by an average of 9.5 points.
Regardless of the venue, Dallas will have to put together a much better third quarter than the one that ruined its chances of winning Game 5.
The Mavericks committed nearly as many turnovers (12) as points scored in the stanza. The Suns outscored Dallas 33-14 to take a 22-point lead into the final quarter.
“It was the defense,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of the reason for why his team pulled away. “When we get stops like that and are able to get out in transition, it gets us going. It gets the crowd going. And I firmly believe that defense travels. It’s the one thing you can do in any gym.”
Mavericks star Luka Doncic said his team never got its offense into gear.
“The one thing we didn’t do great was our pace,” Doncic said. “In the last two games, our pace was very good. I think they are one of the best defensive teams, if not the best, in the NBA. They held us to 80. That’s pretty impressive. We’ve got to move the ball and have better pace — faster.”
Doncic recorded 28 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday and is averaging 32 points, 9.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the series.
Brunson added 21 points as the backcourt combined for 49 points. The rest of the Mavericks totaled 31 on 8-of-31 shooting.
Dallas topped 100 points in each of the first four games before Phoenix stymied the attack.
“We pride ourselves on the defensive end all year,” Suns guard Devin Booker said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re not taking the ball out of the hoop and playing a slower-paced game.
“We like getting stops, getting out in transition because we have a lot of athletes, a lot of people that can make plays for each other.”
Booker scored 28 points in Game 5, falling just shy of his third 30-point effort of the series.
Booker is averaging 26.8 points in the series and is shooting a stellar 50 percent (16 of 32) from 3-point range.
“Book has shotmaking ability that’s unique to very few people and in those moments when we need him to settle us down,” Williams said. “Sometimes it’s scoring that can settle you down.”
The end result is that the Mavericks have their backs against the wall.
“When you talk about the playoffs it’s about protecting home court,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s hard to win on the road. So far, both teams have held serve. Now our goal is to hold serve in Game 6.”
Bettors have been divided on the 211.5-point Over/Under at DraftKings, where the Over has been backed by 69 percent of the bets while the Under has drawn 59 percent of the handle.
The market opened at 213.5 points at BetMGM but has shifted to 212.5 with the Under backed by 85 and 93 percent, respectively.