Sweet revenge for Jason Kidd and Luka Doncic

Published May 17, 2022, 1:00 PMPolo Bustamante

It’s poetic that Jason Kidd and Luka Doncic teamed up to eliminate the Phoenix Suns in this year’s playoffs.

I’m fully convinced that the NBA is fueled by pettiness. Besides fighting for the championship, there’s no other real motivation for these players. That’s why they have to manufacture their own motivation. They have to implant that chip on their shoulder in order to play a notch higher against targeted opponents. A postgame quote taken out of context is used as bulletin board material. The wrong celebratory shimmy or griddy is kept in mind until the next matchup. Even moves by the front office are never forgotten.They’re stored in a file folder in a player or coach’s mind and pulled up at the right time.

For Jason Kidd, that right time to get back at the Phoenix Suns came during Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Back in 2001, the Suns traded Kidd to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Stephon Marbury. Phoenix opted to move forward with the younger Marbury instead of keeping their franchise point guard. Moving out to the east, Kidd never really got a good chance to get back at the Suns as a player. He finally got his shot this year as a coach.

As a coach, Kidd is known as the architect of mean defensive teams that use length and activity to shut down opponents. His Dallas Mavericks follow suit. They’re a unit made up of annoying defenders that get up in the face of their assignments. The Dallas defense was put to the test against the well-oiled Phoenix offense in this series.

In the first two games, it seemed like the Suns’ offense would overwhelm Dallas’ defense. Kidd didn’t panic. He trusted his players to keep the defensive intensity on Devin Booker and Chris Paul. He also made smart moves like pulling out Frank Ntilikina from the reserves to give his defense on Booker a different look. He doubled down on his strategy and it paid off.

The Mavericks won three of the next four games off the strength of their physicality and effort on D. They limited the Suns to an average of 93.7 points on 43.6 percent shooting in those three wins. It all culminated in the Game 7 beatdown. The brutality of the Dallas’ defense finally broke down Paul and Booker. Booker hit only three of his 14 shots for 11 points. Paul could only muster eight shots and four assists. The Suns never had a chance with their two superstars erased by the platoon of Mavs defenders.

On offense, Kidd didn’t have to do much. He just had to let another player wronged by the Suns run wild.

The Draft night beef of Luka Doncic usually revolves around the team that traded him, the Atlanta Hawks. Most people forget that two other teams passed on this Wonder Boy. One of those teams is Phoenix, who opted to go for DeAndre Ayton with their first pick.

It’s no surprise then that in the first play of Game 7, Doncic matchup-hunted Ayton, bodied him up, and hit a one-legged fadeaway over Ayton. While the rest of the Suns took their time to get into the groove of the game, Doncic was already in full playoff form. He didn’t slow down all game. He was in full attack mode, knocking down ridiculous 3-pointers, relentlessly getting to the paint, and whipping out dimes to open teammates. 

There was also additional beef that needed to be settled between Booker and Doncic. All series long, the two were going at each other with non-stop trash talking. In Game 5 when the Suns put the Mavs on the brink of elimination, Booker was at his most annoying. He “stole” the ball from Doncic during a dead ball situation. He then followed it up with the infamous “Luka Doncic Special,” where he fell on the court after a long foul and then called it Doncic’s move as he was getting up. 

Doncic got the last laugh in Game 7. He showed Booker what a “Luka Doncic Special” really was, dropping 35 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists to lead the Mavericks in their demolition of the Suns. He out-scored and out-rebounded Booker and Ayton (and Paul) combined.

It took several years and seven games, but Kidd and Doncic finally got back at the Phoenix Suns. They not only torpedoed the Suns’ historic season, they embarrassed the best regular season team in the league in front of their own fans. It was a statement win by the Mavericks, with extra oomph from Kidd and Doncic.

Their focus now shifts to the Western Conference Finals. It’s time for Kidd, Doncic, and the Mavs to find more petty fuel against the Golden State Warriors.