The Dallas Mavericks proved unable to avoid falling to a 3-0 series deficit after losing Game 3 to the Golden State Warriors, with 109-100 being the final score.
There have been some consistent themes in this series. Luka Doncic finished with 40 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie (26) and Jalen Brunson (20) combined for 46 points in addition. The rest of the team finished with 14 points while shooting 5-27 (18.5 percent) overall and 2-20 (10.0 percent) from the perimeter.
In the early goings of Game 3, there was a clear emphasis from Doncic to be aggressive in attacking the rim. He was able to draw numerous foul calls playing physical near the paint.
With a non-shooting five on the floor for the Mavericks in Dwight Powell, the Warriors began overloading the strong-side and trapping baseline attacks. Doncic shifted focus to making plays by drawing the defense's focus to create spray-out passes, but catch-and-shoot attempts from deep were not falling.
The early results for the Mavericks were underwhelming as they trailed 16-7 with 6:47 left in the first quarter. They had missed all six of their initial 3-point attempts — bailing out the Warriors for their aggressive, overloading defensive strategy.
"If you make [3s], that's great, but you just have to understand, if you miss four in a row, you can't take the fifth," Kidd said after the Mavericks' Game 2 loss. "You've got to make it. That just puts too much stress on yourself and on your team because, if you're not getting stops on the other end, it turns into a blowout."
With the Warriors primarily guarding Jalen Brunson with Draymond Green, the defensive game-plan has been to overload on Doncic and neutralize Brunson with Green. The Mavericks have had to work to draw switches using ball screens or try to make a quick pass hitting the short-roller against hedge-and-recover.
Dallas managed to chip away at the Warriors' lead when 3s started falling. A deep pull-up from 32-feet dropped to beat the buzzer — reducing the Warriors' lead to 25-22 after one period. Relying on Spencer Dinwiddie, a bigger guard that thrives at getting to the rim proved to be a helpful backcourt partner for Doncic to close out the opening period.
The Mavericks finished the opening period shooting just 3-14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range while going 8-23 (34.8 percent) overall from the floor. Dallas' defense stopped engaging Curry so tightly deep off the 3-point line for a stretch and sagged off Draymond Green — helping the defense to stay better in rotation to close the frame.
Dinwiddie showed that he is able to finish through the Warriors' half-court defense anchored by Kevon Looney as the initiator of the offense to begin the second period. The Mavericks' offense was aggressive in getting into the paint, and a key reason for doing so? They had all shooting threats on the floor to space out.
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The second unit's work for the Mavericks helped to hold a 30-29 lead with 9:11 remaining in the second quarter. Dinwiddie and Brunson remained aggressive in getting to the rim and grew the lead to five by the time Doncic checked back in.
Immediately after a Dorian Finney-Smith made free throw gave the Mavericks a first-half best nine-point lead, Stephen Curry scored or assisted on four possessions to pull off an 8-0 run. He knocked down a pair of tightly contested 3s and assisted on a pair of finishes at the rim. His gravity was re-established in a hurry — causing the Mavericks' defense to once against getting out of rotation to close the period.
The Warriors continued to utilize an aggressive on-ball defensive strategy against Doncic by making him see two defenders early, as they've done throughout the series. The Mavericks took 25 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half, with many being open looks, but only converted six of their takes.
There was minimal momentum for the Mavericks' offense for much of the third quarter. After Green knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer, Thompson was left alone on a 45-cut for a finish — putting the Warriors up 65-56 with 4:43 remaining in the period.
The Warriors mixed up their coverages between their 1-2-2 zone and a box-and-one again to prevent Doncic from having a gap to operate in the half-court. The Mavericks' offense already struggled to get Golden State's defense out of rotation, but their overloading strategies only exacerbated the issue for Dallas.
“The first three quarters, I played very bad," Doncic said." That’s on me. I’m still learning. I think after this season is done, whenever we are, I’m going to look back and learn a lot of things. This is my first conference finals in NBA. I’m 23, man. I’m still learning a lot.”
With Doncic on the bench to close the third quarter, the Mavericks went to Dinwiddie as the offense's focal point. He once again drew a switch to have Kevon Looney guarding him and made quick work getting to the rim with a spaced-out unit.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Mavericks' offense had scored just 68 points and was 19-55 (34.5 percent) from the floor and 9-34 (26.5 percent) from 3-point range. With a ten-point deficit, Dallas faced a tall task to mount a comeback with just 12 minutes to avoid a 3-0 series deficit.
Thompson began to come alive from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter to help preserve the Warriors' double-figure advantage. A step-back 3 from Doncic helped to reignite the American Airlines Center crowd, but it was short-lived.
There was a clear letup from the Warriors' defense in the final minutes of regulation, and Doncic took advantage — scoring 21 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter. It nearly brought them back, too. A spray-out pass he made led to a make from the corner from Dinwiddie cut the deficit to 104-99 with 54.2 seconds left to play. Jordan Poole immediately answered back with a made 3-pointer of his own to essentially put a lid on the game.
The Mavericks shot just 28.9 percent on 45 attempts from 3-point range proved to be too much to overcome. Giving up 14 offensive rebounds and getting outscored by a 12-point margin in paint scoring doesn't help either.