Luka Doncic had been responsible for all of the Dallas Mavericks’ points in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals until Dwight Powell scored at the 9:55 mark of the first quarter.
To some extent, it was an ominous sign of things to come for the rest of Game 3, where nearly all of the Mavs’ offensive production came from either Doncic, Jalen Brunson, or Spencer Dinwiddie.
With the 109-100 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Dallas is now staring at an 0-3 series deficit, one that 146 playoff teams have never overcome. The Warriors have been also able to counter every punch the Mavericks have thrown at them. Unlike Dallas, though, Golden State could count on more than a handful of players to contribute on a given night, with some of those players capable of not only pouring it on, but also gut punching hapless defenders while they’re at it.
If any of the Mavs’ wildest dreams of ever rallying back from a 3-0 deficit were to ever come to fruition, getting consistent production from anyone on Dallas not named Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, and even Spencer Dinwiddie will be of utmost priority. Dinwiddie came off the bench in Game 3 and removing his 26 points would leave the Mavericks’ bench with just two points (thanks to Davis Bertans) on 1-for-9 shot attempts. The Warriors’ bench also had nine field goal attempts, but they converted on three of those shots and scored 12 points.
Knocking down shots, especially from behind the 3-point line, will certainly help, considering how they missed as many 3-point attempts (32) as Golden State attempted all game. Reggie Bullock’s reversal from 21 points in Game 2 to a dud of a Game 3 pretty much summed up the tough night Dallas’ perimeter players went through. Shots falling will certainly create more space for Doncic and Brunson to create and for the Mavs’ big men to feast inside.
The 11 misses the Dallas frontcourt had in Game 3 stuck out like a sore thumb especially when you think about how things would have been less laborious for the Mavericks’ backcourt had they been converted. As a result, the Warriors can simply adjust their defensive coverage and live with marginal shots from the others so long as Doncic doesn’t light up the defense.
Defensively, Dallas had the right approach in trying to make Golden State more static by trying to render Draymond Green ineffective. Green had four fouls in Game 3 and finished the contest with only five assists, but Stephen Curry (game-high 11 assists) and the rest of the Warriors continued to probe their way around the Mavs’ defense.
Stopping players may not always be the answer against the Warriors given how they have quite a number of playmakers to Dallas’ 2.5 playmakers (i.e., Doncic, Brunson, and whoever shows up). Clogging passing lanes and sealing space should be the objective since Golden State’s offense thrives off such. It can be said that the Warriors run an offense of opportunity and limiting those opportunities can keep things level and make games more winnable. But then again, that’s all easier said than done.
Despite where they are now, it’s fair to say that the Mavericks should take these all in as a learning experience considering many didn’t have them making the Western Conference Finals in the first place. Yet this playoff run itself would be a wasted opportunity if Dallas doesn’t try to maximize the chances at winning games even if in the end outsiders may say it will be for naught. At this point, they can be playing with nothing to lose and only a few things are more dangerous than a team supposedly with nothing to play for.
Technically, the Dallas Mavericks still have a chance to come back and perhaps even make the NBA Finals, but history is not on their side. For all of Luka Doncic’s greatness, basketball remains a team sport and him doing it alone makes winning quite a steep climb compared to when the Mavs can match the Golden State Warriors’ strength in numbers.