After the Phoenix Suns got spanked by 27 points on Thursday at American Airlines Center, there was the usual amount of respect offered by Chris Paul and company.
And a good bit of defiance, too.
As Paul said: “We’ve been here before and seen it. The best thing about all of these playoff games is that you don’t carry a 20-point lead into the next game. Each game has a personality of its own and now it’s down to one game.”
The Suns are 3-0 on their home floor in this series, just like the Mavericks are 3-0 at AAC. Home court rules, so far.
The Suns are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They earned this Game 7 at home by being so good (64-18) in the regular season.
At stake is a trip to the Western Conference finals.
Now, it’s up to the Mavericks to beat the odds. Game 7 produces a home winner 76.8 percent of the time (109-33). However, it did happen twice in the conference semifinals last season (also twice in the conference semis 2020, although in the bubble those were “road” games in name only.
“We understand they are a good team,” said Devin Booker. “They are a 4-seed in the Western Conference for a reason. They protect home well.
“We worked all season to have home-court advantage and get the last game in our house and that’s exciting. It’s Game 7. I’ve never been in a Game 7. It’s going to be fun.”
Neither Booker nor Paul was particularly effective in the Mavericks’ 113-86 trouncing of the Suns in Game 6. But if this series has had any theme, it’s that the momentum means nothing when the venue changes.
Everybody left the Mavericks for dead when they returned home last week down 2-0. When they tied the series at 2, everybody figured the Suns were in peril.
Now it’s 3-3 and even after the Mavericks won Game 6 so convincingly, it’s no time to feel like they have any kind of advantage, psychologically or otherwise.
They know what to expect in Game 7.
“The best,” said Frank Ntilikina. “The best out of CP, the best out of Booker, the best out of the Suns. They’re an experienced team. They know what they’re doing. But I feel like the pressure’s on them. And we’re going to bring our best, too.”
The Mavericks have lacked offensive efficiency in the games at Phoenix. That’s made their defense look disproportionately bad, coach Jason Kidd said after Saturday’s lively practice – where the mood was about as light as it’s been at any point in the playoffs.
If the Mavericks are nervous, it was nowhere to be found on Saturday. As Kidd said, it’s just basketball. But it’s also a situation where they know the freight trains known as CP3 and Book are headed their way.
“You’re talking about two guys who have been in the league and understand what’s in front of them,” Kidd said. “They’re going to be aggressive. We got to try to make it tough on them. We know Book and Chris are coming. They’ve been coming (at us) all series.”
But with a lot more aggression in Phoenix. Since Paul had 28 points in Game 2 at Footprint Center, he’s averaged only 9.3 points and 6.3 assists in four games, three of them wins by the Mavericks.
“We just did not have the force and determination that it takes to win a game like this on the road,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after Game 6. “But we will have it the next time we step on the floor.”
The Mavericks expect nothing less, particularly out of Paul, who has a history of being at his best when the stakes are at their highest. And they don’t get much higher than a Game 7.
“It’s win or go home, you know what I mean?” Paul said. “I feel like we worked as hard as we did all season to get home court. Just because you have home court doesn’t guarantee that you are going to win the game.
“(But) we’d rather play at home.”