DAN BICKLEY

Suns return to court like NBA champions in Game 5 win over Mavs

May 10, 2022, 10:38 PM | Updated: May 11, 2022, 12:02 am

PHOENIX — Surrounded by danger and shrouded in doubt, the Suns went to the locker room at halftime as one of the more perplexing teams in the postseason.

They returned to the court like NBA champions.

Order has been restored. Faith has been renewed. For the third time in the past two seasons, the Suns have prevailed in a pivotal Game 5.

“It was the defense tonight,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said. “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.”

The dominant second-half performance was comforting, like the recognition of an old friend. The Suns seemed to find their gravitas and their spirit during a lopsided 110-80 victory. And so did the crowd, where the home-court advantage finally reached the decibel level that marked last year’s run to a title, when a new generation of rabid Suns fans became the talk of the tournament.

There have been many unexpected potholes during the first half of this Revenge Tour. Let’s hope this runaway victory will liberate the Suns, leading to miles of open road ahead.

“That Game 3 and 4 (in Dallas), it really bothered us a lot,” Suns star Chris Paul said.

After looking vulnerable and out of sorts in Dallas, the Suns made major adjustments to their lineup. Cam Payne was effectively benched. Devin Booker played backup point guard. Bismack Biyombo took JaVale McGee’s spot as backup center. It worked.

The Suns survived a first-half slog and an early Dallas assault. They took care of the basketball, cleaning up the turnover issues that plagued them on the road. They received 38 points from their reserves. And they finally ignited a tinderbox crowd yearning to tilt the playing field.

During the first half, it was clear there was a different energy inside Footprint Center. But the Suns failed to capitalize on most of the combustible, momentum-swing moments. The most egregious was a dazed Deandre Ayton squandering the chance for a thunderous dunk, the kind of daffy moment that drives fans crazy.

But Ayton came out with a different vibe in the second half. He played with a newfound aggression. He converted a pair of offensive rebounds, exploiting a size advantage the Mavericks can’t counter.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks cooled off considerably in Game 5, missing 24-of-32 shots beyond the three-point line and finishing with only nine team assists. Mikal Bridges provided his typical buffet of defensive wizardry. And Booker did the rest, scoring 28 points in 35 minutes.

Before Game 5, former Suns great Charles Barkley called out Ayton and Booker, saying it was their time to shine, to take some off the load of Paul’s shoulders. Consider that another one of the Suns’ small victories on Tuesday.

“Book has shot-making ability that’s unique to very few people,” Williams said.

Experience was one of the many things the Suns gained while losing their bid for a championship in 2021. This was their fifth Game 5 as a group since Paul arrived two seasons ago. One of those losses was a chance to clinch a playoff series at home against the Clippers. The other cost them an NBA championship against the Bucks. They were very aware of the implications and consequences attached to Tuesday’s game in downtown Phoenix.

With the victory, the Suns did a solid for Williams. Their beloved servant leader won NBA Coach of the Year honors before Game 5, just as this Western Conference semifinal seemed to be slipping from their collective grasp. The juxtaposition was perilous.

Had the Suns lost this game, they would be in imminent danger, facing an elimination game on the road. And that award would begin to feel hollow, mocked and ridiculed by Suns detractors.

Williams didn’t deserve that. He deserved exactly what he received in Game 5, a team that entered with “heightened respect and appropriate fear” of the Mavericks. And they responded accordingly.

Once again, it’s safe to exhale on Planet Orange. The Suns looked like themselves. And now it’s time to take that team and that show back on the road, putting another opponent in the rear-view mirror.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Penguin Air
(@Suns/Twitter) (@Suns/Twitter) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) gets fouled as he goes up for a shot against Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul, right, grabs a rebound in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock, left, during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives past Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder, left, as Suns forward Mikal Bridges, right, looks on during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) wins the open tipoff against Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell (7) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder argues a foul called against him during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) tries to get off a shot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) looks to shoot against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic smiles as he slaps hands with a Phoenix Suns fan during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks forward Davis Bertans (44) gets fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, right, shouts at referee David Guthrie (16) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) dunks against Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13), Mavericks forwards Maxi Kleber (42) and Dorian Finney-Smith, right, during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, right, gets fouled by Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, as Booker goes up for a shot during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, left, alters the shot by Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, right, during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo, left, battles with Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber, right, for a loose ball during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns fans shout during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson, middle, goes in for a dunk as Dallas Mavericks guards Spencer Dinwiddie (26) and Jalen Brunson (13) look on during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) drives past Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) to score during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo (18) and Dallas Mavericks forward Sterling Brown both miss a rebound during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic loses the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Referee David Guthrie (16) tries to separate Phoenix Suns center Bismack Biyombo, middle, and Dallas Mavericks forward Marquese Chriss, right, as Mavericks forward Sterling Brown, second from right, agrues during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) and Suns guard Devin Booker, right, celebrate a score by a teammate during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban shouts as he stands on the court during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd, right, argues with referee Sean Wright, left, during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) A Phoenix Suns fan holds up a sign showing Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic crying during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, left, Maxi Kleber, top right, and Boban Marjanovic, middle, watch from the team bench during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at Footprint Center on May 10, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 110-80. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder grimaces due to an injury during the second half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Phoenix. The Suns won 110-80. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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