The NBA Playoffs have been full of drama and standout performances, not only from the league's superstars but also from some new exciting faces. The antics of New Orleans' Jose Alvarado drove Chris Paul and the Suns to quite a scare in the 1st round. Anthony Edward of the Timberwolves proved in their series against Memphis, that he'll be a problem for years to come.
Another player who has taken a step forward is the Mavericks' Jalen Brunson. His success has catapulted his team to a new level, winning their playoff series since the championship year of 2011 after defeating Utah. More importantly, it seems Brunson is ideal backcourt running mate for perennial MVP candidate Luka Doncic. Our contributor Landon Buford covers the Mavs and has the reaction of Brunson and the people around him, as they're set to stave off elimination this Thursday night, down 3-2 in their second round series against Phoenix.
It was a rough postseason last year for Mavericks fourth-year guard Jalen Brunson, who averaged seven points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1 assist during the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. Dallas would lose the series in seven after winning the first two games.
However, during the 2021-22 regular season, Brunson would bounce back, averaging a career-high 16 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and almost 1 steal per game, playing but 3 games for his squad. Before the season started, I asked Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban what he would like to see from Dorian Finney-Smith and Brunson.
“Keep on growing! Look, there is a whole new regime and our new future, and I think it is more about the team than anything else,” Cuban told me in an interview with fortyeightminutes.com.
“Can we play together, particularly defensively as a team, and get better. Our offense is going to be there. We are not going to score 130 points in everything game, but we will have that ability. So, it is really how good team defense we play, and if we make that leap like we are trying to do, everyone will look good. And everyone is going to reap the rewards.”
Before the Mavericks took on the Utah Jazz in the first round of this year’s playoffs, Brunson was asked about not playing in the 2020 Playoffs and having a subpar series in 2021. He shared that he wasn’t worried about the past and would be ready.
In-game two of the first round against the Jazz, Brunson dropped a playoff career-high of 41 points with Luka Doncic out with a strained left calf.
After the game, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was asked about Brunson’s performance. " He's gonna make a lot of money." said Kidd. "I don't know if he needs an agent. It's not just what he did tonight. He's shown [all season] he deserves to be paid."
Before game four against Utah Jazz in the first round, Luka Doncic shared that his running mate Jalen Brunson should have been in the Most Improved Player Award conversation.
“I don’t know how he wasn’t a Most Improved Player candidate. The jump he made this season, there are not a lot of ppl who did that. [You couldn’t see that every day]. He should be in that conversation,” Doncic explained.
Brunson would later talk about Doncic being in the lineup making everything a lot easier.
‘He brings a level of defensive focus that only a couple of people around the league have that type of focus. So, I just have to be aggressive and make plays,” said Brunson.
“He is going to draw so much attention and when the ball is swinging and moving, we have to make plays. Whether it’s being aggressive towards myself or others I just knew I had to apply pressure as much as I could. “
Earlier this month, former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy talked about Brunson’s ability to create separation.
“You watch Jalen Brunson in that [Dallas] Maverick series. The ability to stop on two and pivot to create space and separation it’s really fun to watch,” said Van Gundy.
Dallas is down 3-2 heading back home for game six and will be looking to force a game seven on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns at 9:30 pm EST on TNT.