Facing the possibility of a series sweep in Game 4, the Dallas Mavericks managed to stay alive with a 119-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. They now trail 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals as the series shifts back to San Francisco.
It was a well-rounded effort in the opening half for the Mavericks, and they held a 62-47 lead as a result. The team shot 11-23 (47.8 percent) from beyond the arc despite Luka Doncic being 1-5 (20.0 percent) on his attempts. It was an encouraging start for a team that shot 13-45 (28.9 percent) from deep in Game 4
"I think we have a lot of weapons," Doncic said. "If they make shots, I think it's tough to beat us. But no matter if they make shots or not, you know, I think they impact the game differently without stats, too. I think those guys are the key to our wins.”
During the first half, the Mavericks' defense held the Warriors to just 3-16 (18.8 percent) shooting from the perimeter and contained them to three offensive rebounds. Stephen Curry produced an efficient 15 points in the half, but the rest of Golden State's offense was contained to 32 points on 12-33 (36.4 percent) overall and 1-14 (7.1 percent) from deep.
''It was almost like an ego win (for Dallas). You come out and really have nothing to lose. So that confidence started early,'' Curry said. ''And we really didn't do nothing to slow it down, and then that's when the avalanche starts. You tip your hat to them.''
Defensively, the Mavericks deployed a more balanced approach against Curry at the point of attack to keep the rest from being out of rotation as much as possible. Overall, he ended up being limited to 20 points on the night. There were more possessions ending in tougher short-range shots for the Warriors' complementary talents as opposed to easy play finishing touches and putbacks.
"Looney and Wiggins been doing a great job of being active. But it takes all five guys," Dorian Finney-Smith said. "Sometimes it's hard to come back and rebound when you got guys like Steph Curry at halfcourt and Klay at halfcourt. Really don't want to run all the way back in and help rebound, but we got to do it if we want to win."
The Mavericks' momentum continued after halftime largely due to Finney-Smith knocking down multiple open 3s. They forced a Warriors timeout with 9:24 left in the third quarter building a 72-50 lead. The Mavericks didn't stop converting 3s and led by as many as 29.
The defensive approach against Doncic used by the Warriors remained similar in terms of using hedge-and-recover often on ball screens and overloading the strong side. Golden State is essentially betting on perimeter jumpers not falling at enough of a rate for Dallas to make them pay.
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"We've felt all along we're getting great looks," Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't in this series so far. It's a matter about making shots. The biggest compliment we've gotten is they got to play zone because they can't play us one on one, right? This is a championship DNA team.
"They're giving you a compliment that they can't guard you. It's pretty cool. They're winning the series. But we believe if we can continue to we keep getting the shots that we got, if we make them, it puts pressure on them."
The Warriors’ reserves led a massive effort to rally back in the fourth quarter — outscoring the Mavericks 39-20 within the frame. A 29-point deficit with just 12 minutes remaining was clearly too much to overcome, but they cut it to single-digits at one point, forcing Kidd to put all his starters back in the game.
Despite it being a 13-point game with around four minutes remaining, the Warriors did not bring their starters back until their bench cut the deficit to 110-102 with 3:22 left. However, Dallas managed to stay the course to hold on for a victory.
The main keys to achieving the win? Shooting 20-43 (46.5 percent) on 3s and allowing just six offensive rebounds rank high on the list. It didn't hurt that Luka Doncic recorded 30 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists either.
Perhaps one of the more interesting elements of the Mavericks' formula for victory was it came without Jalen Brunson or Spencer Dinwiddie having major scoring outings. The value of role players making open shots was evident.
Prior to Game 4, the Mavericks had produced a more efficient shot profile in each of the previous three games in this series. The failure to execute those attempts generated proved to be too much to overcome. Can they continue to make open shots? That could determine how long this series lasts.
"We believe it's just one game at a time," Kidd said. "We did our part tonight. We found a way to win. The next part is to find a way to win on the road. Again, we can't get ahead of ourselves. It's still 3-1.
"We know going into Golden State it's a tough place to win, but we've won there before. We just have to continue to take care of the ball, make shots."