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Suns rise in third quarter, pull away from Mavericks, take 3-2 series lead

Devin Booker was getting good looks from the midrange again. Chris Paul was racking up dimes finding the open man. Deandre Ayton was getting the ball inside and pounding the smaller Mavericks. The Suns’ defense was making Luka Doncic uncomfortable and forcing turnovers.

The Suns looked like the 64-win version of themselves again.

Everything was working for Phoenix on Tuesday night, and in the third quarter it all came together — Dallas shot 6-of-16, which turned into transition and early clock chances for the Suns. The Suns dominated the third quarter 33-14 and never looked back, turning the game into a 30-point laugher at the end.

Phoenix won Game 5 110-80, and the Suns are now up 3-2 in the series. Game 6 is Thursday night in Dallas.

The Suns have played much better at home this series, but Dallas got off to a fast start with Doncic hitting his first three from beyond the arc (and Dallas as a team starting 4-of-7 from deep), helping the Mavericks get and maintain a small lead through the first quarter. Even through that run, it seemed the Mavericks were making difficult shots while the Suns were getting the better looks.

By the time the Suns tied the game at 40-40, they had all the momentum. The Suns were hitting their mid-rangers again, as a team shooting 9-of-20 from outside the paint up to the arc. They also scored 44 points in the paint. But Booker said the key to the Suns’ third quarter — they started the second half on a 19-4 run — was defense.

“Just defense. Defending at a high level, making it tough on ‘em,” “Just defense. Defending at a high level, making it tough on ‘em,” Booker said.

The Suns still switched some with Doncic, but less, and they did a good job bringing help from one pass away off non-shooters — Phoenix essentially dared Luka to become a pure scorer and beat them. On Tuesday night, he didn’t have that in him.

Booker scored 28 points, while Ayton added 20 points and nine rebounds. Mikal Bridges had another solid defensive game keeping Doncic off-balance, plus Bridges scored 14 on his own.

Doncic still finished with 28 points on 10-of-23 shooting, and he got a little help from Jalen Brunson, who had 21. However, those two had to work for their buckets, and they got very little help.

Thursday night at home, the Mavericks need those role players to step up, or they will be on vacation by the weekend.

There was a little drama in the garbage time of this game when Marquese Chriss blocked a Bismack Biyombo shot and committed a hard foul on Biyombo — the Suns didn’t dribble out the clock, and Chriss wasn’t happy. Chriss and Biyombo had words and both were ejected — then Chriss ran after Biyombo down the hall and off the court, trying to continue things. Security had to step in and in the end nothing happened, but both men can expect a fine from the league.