It has thus far been a tumultuous postseason run for the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic had a delayed return because of a calf strain. Jalen Brunson has been a roller coaster experience. Maxi Kleber was momentarily possessed by the ghost of Ray Allen. Through it all, perhaps no Maverick has been as consistent and as critical as Reggie Bullock.
He’s been Dallas’ two-way iron man, playing close to 40 minutes in almost every game, even the crucial, series-ending Game 6 in Utah where he was, according to coach Jason Kidd, “sick as a dog.”
It’s been said that to beat the Suns, Dallas needs to play essentially perfectly. Maximize every bit of talent, guts, grit, and team chemistry and then maybe, maybe Dallas could give this Phoenix team – Chris Paul described them as being on a “revenge tour” after losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in last year’s Finals – a run for its money.
It’s fitting, then, that in a must-win Game 3 at home in the AAC, Reggie Bullock delivered a dagger for Dallas on a perfectly imperfect play.
Doncic, trying to pass out of the umpteenth double he’s seen in these playoffs, nearly has his bounce pass to Kleber batted away by the always pesky Jae Crowder. The ball is deflected back, not to either of the two Suns players who had been on the double team, but, by a stroke of luck, back into Doncic’s hands.
It was perhaps a lucky bounce but one that fit into the theme of the night. Dallas was stingy with the ball, coughing up only eight turnovers while forcing 17 from Phoenix. That’s including an uncharacteristic seven from Chris Paul alone. So here, on a play that looked like it should have morphed into Dallas ‘ninth turnover and a scary narrowing lead, the ball just bounced the Mavs’ way. That’s basketball sometimes.
That brief moment of chaos led to Luka dribbling unabated all the way to the free throw line with three Suns players trailing behind him. Luka made what was by then a routine pass to, who else — Reggie Bullock. Planted in the corner, he rose and drained a three-point dagger.
It was the nail in the coffin of a game that Dallas led nearly the whole way but never quite felt safe. For good reason, probably, as Phoenix has been absolute killers in crunch time this season. It took Bullock’s three with 56 seconds left and an ensuing 11-point lead to feel safe exhaling.
With how steadfast Bullock has been so far, it probably won’t be his last chance to hit a big shot in these playoffs.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.