• The Suns came out victorious in Game 1, but not without some issues arising
  • Luka Doncic powered the Mavericks for 45 points and will need help going into Game 2
  • Maxi Kleber and Deandre Ayton are their respective teams' x-factors

The Phoenix Suns were successful in fending off a late-game surge from the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, but both sides showed just how close this series could possibly be.

Here are some observations from their opening tussle.

Luka Doncic Needs Backcourt Help

The Slovenian wunderkind in Luka Doncic fought as hard as possible to keep the Mavericks in-step with the streaking Suns, tallying 26 points in the first half and ended the night with 45 points.

However, Doncic cannot feasibly keep doing such a thing for the entire series as the team runs the risk of getting him gassed and injured.

German center Maxi Kleber was their second-best player tonight and will prove to be an important piece as will be explained below.

Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie both turned in subpar performances with a combined 21 points while shooting at a 9-of-24 clip from the field.

The rest of the Mavericks need to be able to make timely shots whether there is a hand in their face or not going into Game 2.

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks drives past Royce O'Neale #23 of the Utah Jazz during the first half of Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 28, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Suns Cannot Afford To Be Complacent

The box score is not a full indicator of how much the Suns dominated this game from wire to wire as they gave up 35 points in the final frame to give the Mavericks a much-needed boost to close out the game.

At one point, they were leading by 21 points, and to see the final score read 121-114 in favor of the reigning Western Conference Champions must have been disappointing for some fans.

“We scored 121 [points] with that fourth quarter. We can’t have those kinds of quarters against a team like that and give up a 35 [points in the quarter],” said head coach Monty Williams in the postgame presser.

Closing out the game with force in their next meeting has to be of utmost importance to the Suns.

Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns high fives fans after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on April 26, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-97. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Maxi Kleber Will Be Pivotal Moving Forward

A 19-point performance from Kleber was exactly what the Mavericks needed to keep them afloat for most of Game 1 as the Suns were consistently allowing him to put up open three from the corner and from the wing.

Repeating his 5-of-8 shooting from deep is going to have to be on his to-do list as they look to steal homecourt advantage from the heavily-favored Suns in Game 2.

Kleber’s shooting touch is going to be a weapon that Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd needs to emphasize soon to take advantage of the Suns missing out on their defensive assignments.

Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks
Maxi Kleber #42 of the Dallas Mavericks scores against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half at American Airlines Center on March 29, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Feed Deandre Ayton

Arguably the Suns’ most consistent player in the playoffs aside from Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton was on his way to a 30-plus point performance had they leaned in more towards feeding him the ball.

Ayton ended the first half with 19 points on 75% field goal shooting and finished the night with 25 points, which allowed the Mavericks to dig their way back into the game with about 10 minutes left in the fourth.

They need to keep him going throughout the game as the combination of Dwight Powell and Kleber is simply not enough to keep him at bay.

Unleashing the “Bahamian Beast,” as NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal would call him, has to be the priority in their game plan if they want to down the Mavericks quickly and get some much-needed rest.

Deandre Ayton
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Thunder 113-101. Christian Petersen/Getty Images