LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Dallas Mavericks rained 20 three-pointers and again neutralized Phoenix point guard Chris Paul to beat the top-seeded Suns, 111-101, on Sunday and knot their NBA playoff series at two games each.
Star guard Luka Doncic scored 26 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 24 for Dallas, who have won two games at home to level the best-of-seven Western Conference matchup after dropping the first two games in Phoenix.
The Suns, who finished the regular season with the best record in the league, will try to regain the advantage when they host game five on Tuesday. It’s guaranteed to shift back to Dallas for game six on Thursday.
The Philadelphia 76ers also won a second straight game at home to level their Eastern Conference series with Miami at two-all.
Former NBA MVP James Harden scored 31 points to lead six Philadelphia players in double figures in a 116-108 victory.
Center Joel Embiid, who missed the first two games with a concussion and facial fracture, scored 24 points, his presence again making things tougher for Miami defensively.
Embiid carried the Sixers early, scoring 15 points in the first quarter. Harden, who didn’t score in the opening period, took over with 13 points in the second and Philadelphia took a 64-56 lead into halftime after an opening half that featured 17 lead changes.
The Sixers, up 89-85 going into the fourth, pushed the lead to 10 with less than six minutes remaining. Miami had cut it to five when Harden drove to the rim for a basket then drained a three-pointer.
Embiid, still playing in a protective mask, grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Tyrese Maxey for a dunk that made it 111-103 and Harden made another three-pointer to push the lead to 11 with 1:07 left, effectively sealing the win.
Harden scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Sixers withstood a 40-point performance from Miami’s Jimmy Butler.
In Dallas, the Mavericks held off the Suns despite a poor shooting effort from Doncic, who connected on just nine of 25 shots and just one of 10 from three-point range.
Overall, the Mavs were on fire from beyond the arc, their eight three-pointers in the first quarter helping them build a 37-25 lead.
Their 14 three-pointers in the first half tied a franchise playoff record for three-pointers in a half.
They led 68-56 at the break and even more ominously for Phoenix, veteran point guard Paul committed his fourth foul trying to make a tip-in with 1.1 seconds left before half-time.
Paul picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter and headed to the bench. He returned with 10:28 left in the fourth and promptly fouled out thanks to a hand to the arm of Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson.
– A dangerous team –
Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points. Jae Crowder added 15 and Deandre Ayton scored 14.
But the Mavericks bench out-scored the Phoenix reserves 36-26.
“This team was amazing,” said Doncic, who was outstanding but received little support in the Mavs’ two series-opening defeats. “Everybody that gets to the court leaves everything out there. If we play hard and we get stops, we’re a dangerous team.”
While Doncic struggled with his shots, he added 11 assists along with four rebounds. He also forced four steals as the Suns turned it over 17 times.
While Phoenix managed to cut the deficit to four points with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Mavericks repelled every challenge.