The Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat secured wins in Game 1 of their respective second round playoff series: Miami defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 106-92 while the Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks 121-114.
Dallas star Luka Doncic’s outstanding game – 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists – was not enough for the Mavs to overcome a cohesive Suns team, which had six players finish in double figures.
“We’ve just got to get someone to join the party,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd told ESPN.
Doncic scored more points than the rest of the Mavs’ starters who managed just 39 points between them. Despite his individual performance, Phoenix led wire to wire, living up to their billing as series favorites.
Deandre Ayton scored 25 points and Devin Booker marked his return to the squad after three games sidelined by injury with 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
The Suns had a fast start to the game, bulldozing their way to a 18-6 lead midway through the first quarter before the efforts of Doncic and forward Maxi Kleber, who scored 19 points, dragged the Mavs back to within four at the halfway mark.
“I think our defense lost us the game today,” Doncic said. “Our start on the defensive end was terrible, and we’ve got to change that. I know we can play way better defense.”
Phoenix found another gear after the break and stretched their lead to 21 points early in the fourth quarter before a late flurry from the Mavs made the scoreline more respectable.
“We’ll take the win,” Suns point guard Chris Paul – who contributed 19 points and five rebounds – said. “It’s not always going to be pretty. We played well most of the game. We’ll look at the film tomorrow and see what we need to do differently for Game 2.”
Heat take Game 1 against Sixers
In the Eastern Conference, meanwhile, the Heat won a scrappy game against a Sixers side missing their talisman Joel Embiid, as he recovers from an orbital fracture and concussion suffered in the closing minutes of Philly’s Game 6 win over the Toronto Raptors.
In Embiid’s absence, his Sixers teammates struggled. 2018 MVP James Harden was held to just 16 points – 12 of his 13 field goal attempts were contested and he was also double-teamed nine times. The rest of the 76ers didn’t fare much better, shooting 6-for-34 from three-point range and conceding 15 turnovers that yielded 22 points for the Heat.
“Obviously, we’re not trying to miss shots, but things we can control are rebounding the basketball and not turning the basketball over,” Harden told ESPN. “That’s things we can control, and once we do that next game, we’ll have a better chance of winning.”
Initially, neither team controlled the game. The Heat opened up a lead which reached 12 points in the first quarter before the 76ers fought back to lead 51-50 at the halfway point, as Miami went 1-for-9 from the field in the final six minutes of the half.
”I liked how we fought back,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said, according to the NBA. ”I liked how we came out at the beginning of the third quarter … and then I didn’t like the rest of the game from that point on.”
Led by Tyler Herro off the bench – who scored 25 points and was 4-for-6 from deep – and Bam Adebayo – who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds – the Heat rallied late on. A 10-0 run in the third followed by a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter were enough to secure victory.
“They’re a very good team even without Embiid,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game. “We just were able to get organized in the second half. We did it with a little bit more thought and discipline, and just that extra effort ignited everyone on the team.”
Game 2 for both series will take place on Wednesday.