DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks successfully managed to avoid getting swept in the Western Conference Finals with a 119-109 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4.
No team has ever pulled off a 3-0 series comeback in NBA history. The Mavericks seek to be the first to ever accomplish such a staggering feat. As they continue to take a game-by-game approach, what matters now is Game 5.
Facing possible playoff elimination in Game 4, the Mavericks received a strong outing from Luka Doncic coupled with hot perimeter shooting as a unit to stay alive. Tightening up on defense certainly didn't hurt either.
"We got to believe," Doncic said. "I think our defense was way better today. I think we attacked the paint. Those two things are key. That's what we got to bring to San Francisco.
"I mean, I still believe we can win, you know. Swept or not swept. In the end, if you lose you lose. ... We have to go game by game. We going to believe until the end."
The Mavericks will not have the luxury of playing at the American Airlines Center as they seek to stave off elimination by the Warriors once again. The opponent's stakes being another NBA Finals appearance will surely make for a highly energized crowd in a hostile environment.
As Game 5 gets ready to tip-off at 8 p.m. CT on Thursday night at Chase Center, here are some of the biggest keys to watch for:
Elimination Game Luka Doncic
There are some stars who tend to "go out sad" when it comes to playing in big moments. Luka Doncic is far from one of those stars. In fact, he clearly relishes the big moments.
Entering Game 5, Doncic is averaging 36.4 points per game in five elimination games in his career and holds a 3-2 record in such situations. He finished with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and nine assists along with a pair of steals and blocks in Game 4.
The Mavericks rely on Doncic at a historic level with his league-high 39.3 percent usage rate in the playoffs. If he doesn't quite have it for a game, Dallas is likely going to strongly suffer. Getting a win starts with a strong outing from the superstar.
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Doncic has clearly been getting increasingly comfortable with countering the Warriors' aggressive defensive schemes to overload help against him. Whether it's the hedge-and-recover on ball screens or zone schemes, he's bounced back since being limited to 20 points in Game 1.
Teams tend to adjust throughout a playoff series, but it remains to be seen how creative the Warriors will feel they need to get. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead through three games by playing the numbers game, begging the Mavericks' role players to defeat them. Will they feel the need to shake things up?
Balancing Act of Guarding Stephen Curry
The Mavericks produced a well-balanced defensive outing in Game 4. Stephen Curry was contained to just 20 points without having to often sacrifice being out of rotation to limit offensive rebounds and easy finishes in the paint for role players.
Curry has been one of the better home playoff performers in the NBA this year. He's averaging 28.0 points per game while shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range on 10.6 attempts per game. Will the Mavericks' defense overcommit to containing him?
The Warriors are shooting 40.7 percent from beyond the arc on 35.6 attempts per game when playing at home in the playoffs. While Curry accounts for a fair amount of that production, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, and Otto Porter Jr. each have shot with high efficiency at Chase Center.
Getting out of rotation to pressure Curry's 3-point attempts from the parking lot has proven to be quite risky. Again, making the best shooter of all-time live up to his reputation is a better way to lose than allowing Kevon Looney to set a career-high in scoring on easy finishes and put-backs.
Shooting Execution on Road
With the Mavericks producing greater shot quality in each of the four games they've played in this series against the Warriors, it's essential they are actually executing those looks. Of course, that sounds like a surface-level thought, but regardless, sometimes that's what it comes down to in the end.
The Warriors are conceding quality looks on the perimeter in favor of loading up on Doncic often. A win is not guaranteed when those shots fall, but a loss almost is when they do not.
Despite Doncic shooting 3-11 (27.2 percent) from beyond the arc in Game 4, the Mavericks as a whole finished shooting 20-43 (46.5 percent). Players not named Doncic went 53.1 percent from deep on 32 attempts for Dallas.
Converting at such a high clip from the perimeter again isn't a reasonable expectation for the Mavericks. However, at least not receiving 0-12 shooting from Maxi Kleber and Reggie Bullock as they did in Game 4 goes a long way.
If there is any positive indication for the Mavericks, they are averaging a league-most 41.4 attempts from the perimeter on the road in the playoffs and are shooting 38.1 percent. After nine road playoff games, that's quite impressive and will be needed to avoid elimination in Game 5.