As bad as a 3-0 deficit looks on paper, it wasn't indicative of how competitive the Dallas Mavericks have been with the Golden State Warriors in these Western Conference Finals. The Mavs built sizable leads in Games 2 and 3 but just weren't able to make enough open shots to close things out.
On Tuesday night, while facing elimination for the third time this postseason, the Mavs put together their most complete performance yet and avoided a sweep by beating the Warriors in Game 4, 119-109. Dallas is undefeated in elimination games this postseason, now holding a 3-0 record in that department.
Although the Mavs led by 29 points heading into the fourth quarter, there was no stress-free finish for Dallas, as the lead shrank to single digits with 3:23 remaining. Coach Jason Kidd was forced to bring his starters back in for the second half of the final period.
Luka Doncic, who was selected to his third consecutive All-NBA First Team appearance on Tuesday, led the Mavs with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists while shooting just 10-26 from the field, including 3-11 from 3-point range. Doncic also hit 7-10 from the free-throw line.
Everyone knows the statistics by now – no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. Before this series, 146 teams had fallen into 3-0 holes over the years. Only 14 teams came back to win two games, and only three teams came all the way back to force a Game 7. Despite those numbers, the Mavs believe they're capable of doing something special.
"I still believe we can win," said Doncic. "We're going to have to go game by game. You have to believe to win."
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One of the biggest themes of the conference finals has been the Mavs' role players not being able to knock down open shots for the course of an entire game. Dallas bucked that trend in Game 4, as five other Mavericks joined Doncic by scoring double digits. The Mavs shot 50 percent from the field as a team, including an impressive 46.5 percent from deep.
Dorian Finney-Smith was Dallas' second-leading scorer with 23 points on 9-13 shooting, including 4-7 from deep. Reggie Bullock, Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber and Spencer Dinwiddie joined the party as well, scoring 18, 15, 13 and 10 points respectively.
After combining to go 0-15 from the field in Game 3, Bullock and Kleber bounced back in a big way by shooting a combined 11-16 in Game 4, including 8-13 from deep. For the fourth consecutive game, the Mavs' role players continued to get the high-quality shots they were looking for. When they're hitting them, Dallas is a tough team to beat.
The Warriors had seven players score in double digits, led by Stephen Curry, who finished with 20 points on just 7-16 shooting. The Mavs did a good job closing out on Curry throughout the game and even blocked one of his 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter.
The Mavs will now shift their focus to Game 5 on Thursday night at Chase Center. Can they make the Warriors sweat and force a Game 6 back in Dallas? As resilient as this team has been all season long, it wouldn't shock us.
"We just have to take it one play at a time," said Finney-Smith. "We want to do something special. It's going to be very hard, but we can do it. We just gotta stick together."