Nine Numbers That Tell the Story of the Mavs’ Evisceration of the Suns

The Mavericks’ 123-90 win over Phoenix—no, “win” isn’t a strong enough word for what we all just witnessed in a Game 7 Sunday night. Blowout? Drubbing? Utter evisceration?

Yes, that’s better: The Mavericks’ utter evisceration of Phoenix seemed like a surreal result all night long. They won by 33 points. On the road. In a Game 7. Against the team with the best record in the NBA, which entered the playoffs as a championship favorite.

This was simply one of the most stunning outcomes in NBA history. It was such a shocker we need to run through some stats to digest all that transpired:

1. Only one road team had ever won a Game 7 by a greater margin than Dallas did on Sunday. That was the 1948 Philadelphia Warriors, who played in the pre-NBA Basketball Association of America and beat the St. Louis Bombers by 39 points. The modern record is Dallas’s now, however; it previously belonged to the 2005 Pacers, who beat Boston by 27.

2. This game was a blowout from the start up until garbage time began, as the Mavericks won each of the first three quarters by double-digits. At halftime, their lead was an astounding 30 points.

That’s a new record for a Game 7. The previous high was 27, by the Knicks in the famous Willis Reed game in the 1970 Finals.

3. The Mavericks led by so much in large part because the Suns scored only 27 points in the first half. That’s the second-fewest for any team in Game 7 history. The 2008 Hawks—who were the eighth seed, with a 37-45 record—scored 26 in the first half after surprisingly dragging the eventual champion Celtics to a seventh game.

For comparison, Luka Doncic scored 27 in the first half by himself.

4. Doncic ended the game with 35 points in just 30 minutes, on 12-for-19 shooting (6-for-11 from distance). And Spencer Dinwiddie added 30 points off the bench, on 11-for-15 shooting (5-for-7 from a distance).

Doncic and Dinwiddie were the first pair of teammates to each score 30 points in a Game 7 since Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant did the deed against Sacramento in 2002.

5. The leading scorer for the Suns, conversely, was Cam Johnson with all of 12 points.

Note that Johnson is a reserve for Phoenix. But the Suns’ starting lineup scored just 37 combined points—barely edging Doncic alone. And Doncic didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

One of the slumping Suns starters was Devin Booker, who scored 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting. Phoenix was outscored by 41 points with Booker on the court in Game 7—the worst plus-minus for any player in a Game 7 in Basketball-Reference’s play-by-play database, which extends back to the 1996-97 season.

6. Booker’s All-Star backcourt partner, Chris Paul, wasn’t much better, scoring only 10 points with a minus-39 plus-minus. That is the worst single-game plus-minus in Paul’s career, regular season or playoffs.

That performance continued a rotten run for the future Hall of Famer: After the Suns took a 2-0 lead in the series, Paul averaged 9.4 points over the next five games. From Game 3 on, Paul made 18 shots from the field and committed 18 turnovers.

And Paul was also curiously cautious in those games—perhaps related to injury. Dating back to the start of the second round last postseason, Paul had attempted double-digit shots in 21 of 22 playoff games. But he attempted single-digit shots in all of the Suns’ last five contests.

In his entire career, Paul had never previously gone more than three consecutive games with single-digit shot attempts.

7. With Booker and Paul leading the way, Phoenix scored just 97.8 points per 100 possessions in Game 7, which, for context, was worse than every team managed in this regular season.

The Mavericks, on the other hand, finished with 132.3 points per 100 possessions in the game, which, naturally, was better than every team’s mark in the regular season by a massive margin.

8. The teams especially diverged in how well they shot when using picks. The Mavericks scored 1.38 points per possession off a pick, per Second Spectrum, while the Suns were less than half as effective, at 0.65 points per possession.

No matter how Phoenix defended Dallas’s screens, the Mavericks scored at will. On switches, Doncic and Co. scored 1.3 points per possession; on soft coverage, they scored 1.2.

Dallas targeted Paul most of all—an ironic twist after Paul had so tormented Doncic in the Suns’ runaway victory in Game 2. Paul defended the screener on 24 plays in Game 7, per Second Spectrum, the most for any player in the game.

That’s the highest figure for Paul in any game he’s played in the past five seasons. In fact, the five highest figures for Paul in the past half-decade have all come in the last five games. The Mavericks targeted him with screens like no other team has ever done before.

9. Zooming out, this debilitating loss means that in each of the past two postseasons now, the Suns lost a series they first led 2-0. (The other was the Finals against Milwaukee.) The Suns, of course, have still never won a championship—and these last two postseasons represented their best chances at least since Steve Nash was running the show, if not longer.

On the other side, Dallas is flying with confidence into the conference finals. Until last month, the Mavericks hadn’t won a playoff series since winning the title 11 years ago. Now they’ve won two in a row, both in comeback fashion.

The Mavericks visit the Warriors for Game 1 on Wednesday. The Suns will spend the rest of the summer ruing the missed opportunity.

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