Lowe: Why Deandre Ayton and the Suns present a far greater challenge to Luka Doncic than Rudy Gobert and the Jazz

Almost every Mavericks playoff opponent takes aim at Luka Doncic's defense, hoping to force him into mismatches. Dallas might get away with it against the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert. It will not against Deandre Ayton and the Suns. Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

There is something about facing the same opponent over and over in the NBA that breeds annoyance and contempt. It might lead to post-victory gloating that can be taken either as unsavory or tongue-in-cheek fun, depending on your perspective.

After a messy and exciting six-game conquest of the Utah Jazz in the first round, Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd could not resist needling Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert -- perhaps shoveling the last bit of dirt on the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell partnership.

In discussing the challenges of defending the Phoenix Suns' offense -- essentially tied for No. 3 in points per possession during the regular season -- Kidd noted all the different ways the Suns can score.

"This isn't Gobert or Whiteside," Kidd told a scrum of reporters. "These guys can put the ball in the basket."

(While we're here: It is a remarkable achievement of shot-making and turnover avoidance that the Suns ranked so highly in offense given their old-school shot selection and general statistical tendencies. Phoenix ranked dead last in shots at the rim and 25th in 3-point attempts. Yeah, we know that: They are midrange deities. They also ranked 29th in free throw rate and 21st in offensive rebounding, meaning they got no freebies and very few second chances. They were a first-shot, only-shot offense, and almost a league-high 42% of those shots were midrangers. To sniff the No. 1 spot in total offense with that overall profile in the year of our basketball gods 2022 is a triumph in efficiency bordering on the impossible.)

Kidd was ribbing, but he was also onto something.