Taking a 1-0 series lead by defeating the Dallas Mavericks by 25 points in Game 1, the Golden State Warriors faced a tough task on Friday night. Many expected Dallas to come out firing offensively in Game 2 and they did just that, taking an early 16-point lead over the Warriors in the first-quarter.
Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson were hitting every shot they took for the Mavericks in the first-half and while the Warriors fought back at times, Dallas took a 14-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
The third quarter has notoriously become “The Warriors’ Quarter,” as so many of their second-half comebacks have been fueled immediately coming out of halftime. At any moment in any game, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and this team can get going and all it takes is for them to hit a couple of big shots from the perimeter.
In the third quarter of Game 2, the Warriors outscored the Mavericks 25-13, but it was not necessarily the three-point shot that got them back into this game. Dallas was doing a fantastic job of defending the perimeter, so Golden State continuously attacked the interior, either getting easy layups or getting fouled and heading to the free-throw line.
Slowly, the Warriors began to chisel their way into the Mavericks’ lead until they trailed by just two points entering the fourth quarter. From this point on, Game 2 was all Golden State, as they outscored Dallas 43-32 in the fourth quarter to win 126-117 and take a 2-0 series lead.
From the start, the Mavericks looked like the more prepared team and they were hitting all of the big shots they needed to, but they live and die by the three-point shot and in Game 2, they died by it in the second-half.
Now facing an 0-2 deficit, the Mavericks find themselves in familiar territory. Just a series ago against the Phoenix Suns, Dallas trailed 0-2 before coming back to win that series in seven games, but they will need to have a different mindset against the Warriors because Golden State is a much different team.
Game 3 of this series will be very telling as to if the Mavericks have a chance in this series because should they go down 0-3, it is hard to imagine that they will have any shot of advancing to the NBA Finals.
Friday night’s game was full of momentum swings and high-level play, so let’s look back and evaluate what we learned from the Warriors’ big Game 2 comeback win.
Dallas Has No Interior Defense
Out on the perimeter, Dallas has done an excellent job of switching on ball-screens and getting the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands. Overall, the Mavericks have had success defending the Warriors’ three-point shooting and they have been known to be a very successful defensive squad this season.
However, the Warriors have seemed to figure out how to break this defense apart and that is by attacking the interior.
Dwight Powell starts the game for the Mavericks at the center position, but he is nothing more than a placeholder and he really does not make an impact as a big man for them.
As a result, Dallas has no rim-protector, they are undersized on the interior and Golden State has had a field day constantly putting Luka Doncic in pick-and-roll sets defensively so they can attack him. Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and others have had a ton of success driving hard to the rim with Doncic as their primary defender and the Mavericks really do not have an answer on how to stop this.
They can try to tighten things up on the perimeter to not allow the Warriors to drive downhill at the rim, but in doing so, someone will be left wide-open out on the perimeter.
On the interior, the Mavericks are extremely vulnerable and the Warriors have exposed this through the first two games of this Western Conference Finals series, especially with Kevon Looney having the games of his live down low.
Golden State outscored Dallas by 32 points in the paint and they outrebounded them 43-30. In total, the Warriors scored 62 total points in the paint in Game 2 and if you count some of their free-throws from getting fouled going up for layups in the second-half, then they theoretically had over 70 paint points in this game!
Every time the Warriors attacked the rim, they either converted or they were fouled, allowing themselves to constantly chip away at the Mavericks’ big lead until they found themselves tied and able to pull away with the win.
With no interior presence and Looney continually destroying the Mavericks in the paint on both ends of the court, it is hard to imagine that Dallas will have a chance in this series.
Jordan Poole Is A Problem The Mavericks Do Not Have An Answer To
All year long, Jordan Poole has emerged as an extremely important member of the Warriors’ roster and in the postseason, he has continued to step up for them either in or out of the starting unit.
So far in this series against the Mavericks, Poole is averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 assists and is shooting 68.4% from the floor, 37.5% from three-point line. His explosive first-step has caused a lot of problems for the Mavericks defensively and the young guard’s ability to get to the rim really helped spark their Game 2 comeback.
He is quick, agile and able to attack Luka Doncic on switches, which is why Jordan Poole is and has proven to be the key to the Warriors’ success in this series.
Doncic is not a terrible defender, but he is not the most athletic player in the league. Against Poole, he has no chance of keeping the young guard in front of him, which is why Doncic has struggled defensively so far.
The Mavericks have done a good job of defending Stephen Curry, for the most part, out on the perimeter and they have done a decent job on Klay Thompson as well, but with Jordan Poole out on the floor at the same time, the Mavericks are starting to look very thin defensively.
Dallas knows they are going to have to surrender something if they help onto Poole when he is driving to the rim and should they collapse onto him in the lane, then Curry, Thompson or Wiggins will be left wide-open for a three-pointer.
Fixing their struggles on the defensive-end of the floor is not going to be easy for the Mavericks and quite honestly, with Poole playing as well as he is right now on offense, there may be no solutions for them defensively.
The Mavericks’ Backcourt Is Their Only Source Of Offense
Against the Phoenix Suns, the Dallas Mavericks did a great job of getting everyone involved offensively and they really “spread the wealth” in terms of getting everyone open looks on the perimeter.
With the way the Warriors are defending them in this series, Golden State is allowing guys like Maxi Kleber, Frank Ntilikina and some other bench players to shoot because they know there is a better chance of them missing rather than the likes of Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson.
In Game 2, Doncic and Brunson were on fire and they scored a total of 73 points on 23-42 (54.8%) shooting. Reggie Bullock also stepped up with 21 points on 6-10 shooting from deep, but the rest of the team, not counting these three guys, scored a combined 23 points on 6-25 (24%) shooting.
Throughout these playoffs, we have learned that Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson cannot be stopped, but the rest of this Mavericks' roster is highly vulnerable offensively.
Nobody else can really hit shots or create for themselves with consistency, which is why Golden State has found a ton of success in the second-half of the first two games in this Western Conference Finals series, outscoring Dallas 126-87 in the second-half so far.
Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson have proven to be the only source of offense for Dallas and with their defense not being able to contain the Warriors so far, their production means absolutely nothing.
If they give up more than 105 points in a game, the Mavericks are going to have a lot of trouble winning simply because their offense is a liability. Their backcourt duo scored 73 total points in Game 2, yet they lost because nobody else stepped up to hit big shots and because their defense failed them time-and-time again on the interior.
Dallas’ ability to win this series is definitely in doubt right now unless they can prove to be effective at stopping Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Poole on the offensive-end of the floor. Doncic and Brunson can score a combined 80-plus points if they want, but if nobody else is hitting shots, Golden State will continue to walk away with wins.
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