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Suns' Devin Booker unravels the Mavs' traps with help from Deandre Ayton

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PHOENIX – The Dallas Mavericks made a decision to ambush Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker as much as possible in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

For more than half a year, Booker has served as calm in the storm when things got tough for the Suns’ offense. He can put together a three-minute sequence that gives his team a chance to remember their focus after filming.

Dallas effectively denied this, and it was enough to shut the Suns down entirely, as Chris Paul didn’t look like Chris Paul.

Wednesday’s season opener rolled over, and the same pitfalls came for Booker.

Clearly the Suns were up for it and found a consistent contrast to the two-man game with Deandre Ayton and that’s what led to the 107-105 win.

with a hat tip Empire of the Suns Australia correspondent David Suns on TwitterPhoenix became +25 in 27 minutes when Booker and Ayton played together. It was like dynamite, and the long-term vision of how these two could captain a top NBA offense was coming to life.

Booker has great confidence in his teammates, so when his reputation gets him two defenders, it’s almost done. The defense is about to take off as soon as you pass, so it’s just about doing the right thing.

Ayton’s man, by default, is the one who set the trap. That means Ayton can take a position inside while his man recovers. Here is that action:

When Ayton sets up a high ball pitch, he can take the ball one or two hits faster than he normally would on a dive into the basket. Ayton takes a pass from the free throw line known as the short throw, an area where he really improved last season. That’s thanks to both him and the Suns using him there more.

Coaches Monty Williams and the Suns call it the pocket on the back of the defense.

“It’s definitely something we’re working on, but they have to implement it,” Williams said of the two-player game. “We’ll give them a structure, and then they’ll often go there and talk about the angle of the screen, where it should be in the pocket. Absolutely useless if you don’t have guys to play with in the back, but it’s been really good in DA pocket.”

Ayton was fatal when dribbling a dribble or two if needed to reach a buoy or hook hit, which is now nearly automatic, according to Williams. And when the defenders try to pick it up, Ayton’s great ability as a passer can shine a bit with a clear corner 3 or a smart hit to the basket.

“I think that’s the next step he can take in his game for him to be a dominant post-up tall, mid-size big – quarterback,” Booker said of Ayton after the game. “Especially when there’s a lot of attention on me and Chris. Usually he’s around the free throw line and he’s the first to get him off the counter, and it’s usually 3v2 or 4v3 in the back.

The big difference on Wednesday was that Booker was able to get that pass to Ayton before the trap completely collapsed.

“I think he will learn that it will make his job a lot easier because he works automatically from where he catches the free-throw line,” Booker said of Ayton.

Watch the last clip and it’s number 10 on Phoenix specifically. In the double screenshot of Damion Lee, you’ll notice a crease in which the Suns are spamming at the peak time of the fourth quarter. The above is a ghost screen, that is, it mimics the screen and will immediately jump off the screen. More than anything else, this forces Lee’s man, Luka Doncic, to choose the right place for the aid defense.

This gives more threats for the defense to worry about, plus more transition options. Booker is a tremendous playmaker at this stage of his career, so the Mavericks know he can take passes and the like to break down the defense.

Watch here as each of the Mavericks’ defenders, with most of the attention on Ayton, spend about a second turning their starting men before rebounding. This allows Booker to find enough real estate to score.

Previously, Lee adjusted the screen so Ayton didn’t have to. And now, Dallas’ Maxi Kleber doesn’t fall into the trap because Ayton has never been there. Mav’s toast.

Booker had six of nine assists and zero turnovers in the fourth quarter. It was +17 in the last comeback.

The groove that Booker and Ayton found was a delight to watch. Check out the organized chaos here from what Ayton did and Booker going through the final pass. aid advocate setting an easy lob transition.

When it comes to gaming, Mavericks has run out of answers. They tried to change it. That didn’t work either.

“That’s what the game showed us,” Williams said of relying on a two-player game. “Both teams were, so if you plot how many times we changed defense tonight, I bet both teams were on the board. They were doing everything from the field to the transition to the blitz, and we read the game. That’s what the game showed us.”

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