The Dallas Mavericks had three guys who could go get it off the bounce when they abruptly ended the Phoenix Suns' historic season in last year's Western Conference semifinals — Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie.
They combined for 89 points in leading the Mavericks to a Game 7 stunner in the Western Conference semifinals at Footprint Center. The Suns managed 90 in the 33-point loss.
A year later, with Dallas failing to even make the playoffs, Brunson and Dinwiddie are preparing for the postseason with the Knicks and Nets, respectively. Even having Kyrie Irving pair up with Doncic, the Mavs didn’t have that third guy — and they were 25th in the league in defensive rating.
Chris Paul is an all-time great, but the veteran point guard has been catching and shooting more 3s than freeing himself up off the bounce to score this season.
Enter Terrence Ross.
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) April 12, 2023
The Suns acquired Ross in the buyout market this year largely because of his ability to score at all three levels and create his own shot.
Now he’ll have that chance to do it in the postseason for a championship contender in Phoenix instead of a young, rebuilding team in Orlando where he played the majority of his NBA career.
“At some point in the playoffs, everybody kind of knows what you can do,” Ross said. “Knows your game plan, knows your plays. So, it comes down to who can go get a bucket at some point. We have a lot of guys who can do that.”
Ross is averaging nine points in his 21 games with the Suns, who open the playoffs at home Sunday with Game 1 of a Western Conference first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I know at some point in the playoffs, it’s going to be a time or moment where I’m going to have to set up and make something happen or make some shots,” Ross said. “I’m prepared for that. I’m getting ready for that. Trying to visualize it and just take it day-by-day, but I’m definitely embracing it.”
Ross was extremely aggressive in his early games with Phoenix. He attempted 17 shots on 16-point night in his Suns debut Feb. 24 against the Clippers, but Durant was out with an injury.
Then in Durant’s third game with the Suns at Dallas, Ross only attempted one shot in 13 minutes.
Ross later scored a season-high 30 on 11-of-16 shooting in a loss to Sacramento, followed that up with 15 and 13 points, respectively, in wins against Philadelphia and at Utah on a combined 11-of-26 shooting, but Durant was out with an ankle injury.
Then Ross went scoreless in four consecutive games on 0-for-11 shooting with nine of those attempts coming from 3. He followed that up with an eight-point effort on 3-of-4 shooting.
Durant played in all five of those games.
“Just trying to get the feel of the game,” Ross said. “Don’t try to force it too much. When KD and those guys are on the court, you know that the ball is going there. Trying to get in the habit of playing two different ways. When they’re on the court against when they’re off the court. It’s about that balance. I know there are going to be times where one of them could end up in foul trouble for whatever it may be and I can go out there, potentially step in and fill that role.
Ross has been starting the second quarter with Durant and Chris Paul.
“There’s going to be other times you know those guys are hot or whoever else might be hot and you just want to make sure you keep the ball flowing and rhythm going,” Ross added.
Suns coach Monty Williams decided to rest Deandre Ayton, Booker, Paul and Durant the last two regular season games. Durant was listed out with left ankle injury management.
Ross wound up reaching double figures in those two games, at the Lakers and against the Clippers. The Suns lost both games, but Ross played a total of 60 minutes and wasn’t just settling for 3s.
The 6-6 guard got to his midrange game and drove to the basket. Only eight of his 26 shot attempts were from 3.
“It’s just about understanding who you’re playing with and understanding the dynamics of who you’re out there with,” Ross said. “I know that with KD or Book, you understand that you’re playing off them and you’ve got to work around and find the empty spots in the offense where you can get your shots or be ready to help them. When you don’t have scorers like that in, it’s more of everybody has to create.”
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns guard Terrence Ross trying to find balance going into playoffs