Attack, attack, attack. . .and attack a little more.
That’s how Jalen Brunson eloquently explained how he was able to stamp out his mediocre performances in Games 1 and 2 of this best-of-seven series against the Phoenix Suns and ultimately burn the Suns in Game 3. After Played so pedestrian in the opening two games of this series, Brunson was in attack mode all Friday night while helping the Dallas Mavericks to a 103-94 win over the Suns.
“I think I played with a little more jump in my step and was getting to spots quicker and making decisions quicker,” Brunson said. “Decisions were made for me being aggressive, and my teammates kept giving me confidence to make plays and I continued to do so.”
The results: Brunson had a game-high 28 points on Friday when he was 10 of 21 from the field. That’s a total of 180 for Games 1 and 2 when the fourth-year guard had just 23 points on 9 of 28 shots.
“It was awful, it was terrible,” Brunson said, referring to Games 1 and 2. “But I found a way to bounce back (Friday).”
Brunson’s teammates and the Mavs coaching staff had no doubt that Brunson would rebound.
“JB was locked up,” forward Reggie Bullock said. “A lot of people were probably talking about him.
“He’s been great for us all year. He just had two tough games at the start, but he came out and showed what kind of player he was in the third Game.”
Coach Jason Kidd’s faith in Brunson never wavered. He knows that players sometimes fall into a crisis, whether it’s a mini-crisis or a long-term crisis.
“We talked about it, not just with Jalen, but with everyone,” Kidd said. “We have to get our character back, we have to start helping each other on the defensive side and the offensive side again, and I thought JB was doing that on both sides.
“I thought he was in character, I thought he was attacking early in the clock, I thought he didn’t wait, and that’s what he’s been all season, especially in playoffs. Especially in this first series (against the Utah Jazz) he did not wait. He was attacking and I think he did that very well for us (Friday) night.
In the six playoff games against the Jazz, Brunson averaged 27.8 points and shot a solid 48.4 percent from the field. He also scored at least 23 points in all six games, including a career-high 41 points in Game 2.
On Friday, Brunson got off to a great start with 10 points in the first quarter. And when he added 10 more points in the third quarter, the Mavs were able to hold on to a comfortable 82-67 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I just felt like the ball was going in or not, the mentality was to be aggressive,” Brunson said. “I started games before 0 for 5 or 0 for 6 and maybe finished 7 for 12 or 13.
“I saw the ball go in (during) the first quarter a bit, and I kept going and my teammates kept finding me.”
Kidd said he wasn’t sure if Brunson had the ball more than usual on Friday.
“I’ll leave that for analysis to find out if he had the ball anymore or not,” Kidd said. “But I thought when he had the ball he wasn’t passive, it was not long.
“I thought he was attacking and getting to his places where he likes to score.”
Bullock said he did not step in or speak with Brunson after his poor performance in Games 1 and 2 of this series.
“JB is a great player,” Bullock said. “I knew he would pull through, he would watch a movie, he would try to be better. He’s been good to us all year. I knew he would watch a movie to get started.
“I’m not a player who really talks to players or anything like that. We are all NBA players. We will find out. We’ve been doing it for so long. He’s a great player, so it was good to see him back in (Friday) night.
Bullock, however, noticed something about Brunson in Game 3 that caught his eye and led him to have a conversation with the wise guard.
“He held us back on the offensive end (and) he made some good plays,” Bullock said. “And I told him after the game when I saw him putting defensive pressure on Mikal (Bridges) it definitely kicked me up a notch to know that I saw another teammate there put pressure on the ball and locking in too.”
Brunson knows he needs to bring the same defensive — and offensive — intensity when the Mavs try to even the series at 2-2 when they host Game 4 Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center.
“(We’ll) probably have to play even harder because they’re going to play a lot harder, and we’re going to have to step it up a notch,” Brunson said. “They’re not going to bed.
“They’re a very good team, so we’re going to have to step up, and I think we’re prepared for that.”
As much as he personally relies on the way he played on Friday, Brunson said: “I just can’t be happy with that. Sunday is going to be another brutal game.
“I have to bring the same energy, the same intensity and the same everything.”
And keep attacking.