While Luka Doncic bounced back from a nightmare Western Conference Finals opener with an impressive statline in Game 2, it was not enough to fend off the Golden State Warriors yet again.
The Dallas Mavericks led by as 19 in the first half, but their lead evaporated to just two points by the end of the third quarter as their hot shooting was doused by the Warriors with a suffocating defense. Dallas went from hitting 15 three-pointers over the first two quarters to a paltry two on 11 attempts in the third period.
The trio of Jordan Poole, Otto Porter, and Kevon Looney then continued Golden State’s run at the beginning of the fourth quarter to take their first lead of the evening and finally seize control of the game. They built enough of a cushion to hold off the Mavericks for a 126-117 win that puts them within two wins of their first NBA Finals appearance since 2019.
Doncic led the Mavericks with 42 points–more than double his Game 1 output–on an efficient 12-of-23 shooting along with five rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and a block in 38 minutes of action. The 6’7 superstar scored 14 of those points in the final period as he tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to bring them back into the game.
Jalen Brunson bounced back from a poor Game 1 showing and provided ample support, putting up 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, seven rebounds, and five assists while Reggie Bullock hit six threes en route to 21 points.
Dallas continues to live by the three, taking a total of 93 over the first two games compared to the Warriors’ 57. That strategy was relatively successful in Game 2, but their defense proved to be their weak point once more.
Six different Golden State players tallied at least 11 points in the match with only Andrew Wiggins shooting worse than 50% among that group. Their ability to force turnovers was key in their rally from a similar 2-0 hole in the previous round versus the Phoenix Suns and they must bank on the same feistiness if they are to repeat that feat this time around. With the next two games of the series heading to the American Airlines Center, a shift to a friendlier environment may help turn things to their favor.
The inexperience of this Dallas group in its maiden foray beyond the first round in this four-year-old Doncic era has been especially obvious in this series. It is in stark contrast with these multi-titled Warriors who have caught the Mavericks flat-footed with two timely third quarter runs in both of their games so far.
Although this series is far from over, this encounter should ultimately count as a win for Dallas regardless of what the outcome will be. The experience that they have gained in these high pressure situations will be invaluable for them moving forward, particularly for the 23-year-old Doncic.
While the moral victory is already secure, these Mavericks also still have a shot at coming back in this series. Their plan of launching as many threes as possible will always give them a chance at winning and even a brief hot stretch in Game 3 may be enough for them to win the game if they can recommit to the defensive end of the floor.
Dallas may be down, but they are far from out and you can never truly count out any team that has a talent like Doncic on their side.