The Dallas Mavericks erupted for 15 3-pointers and 72 points in the first half of Friday night's Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. Against most teams, that would be a knockout punch. But the three-time champion Golden State Warriors are a different breed, evidenced by their second-half comeback.
DONUT 1: EASY EXPLANATION - We can break down film, study analytics and examine matchups all night, but this game - this series - rests on the Mavs' 3-point shooting. They made 15 of 27 in the first half and built a 19-point lead. In the second half they made only six of 18 and scored only 45 points. Good, but against the Warriors not good enough. Unlike Utah and Phoenix, Golden State has the offensive weapons to withstand a barrage of outside shooting and still win. Explained Warriors coach Steve Kerr after the third quarter, "We had to keep playing, and trust that they wouldn't make every 3-pointer." Said Mavs coach Jason Kidd, "You can live by the three, die by the three. We died by it tonight."
DONUT 2: BLOWOUT BOUNCE-BACK? - Dallas had won 10 consecutive games after losing the previous contest by 20+ points and it seemed like it was on its way to an 11th with a 67-48 lead late in the second quarter. Now we'll see how the Mavs respond in the game after blowing a 19-point lead.
DONUT 3: SICK INDEED - The angst among Mavs fans regarding Luka Doncic's health was much ado about nothing. While TNT breathlessly reported that he spent Wednesday night "vomiting" and was still "stuffy" and woefully short on sleep, he came out and blitzed Golden State for 18 first-quarter points after managing only 20 in all of Game 1. On one possession Kerr deployed a box-and-one defense, only to see Luka bull through it for a dunk. In other words, Luka was sick, not sick.
Luka and Kidd
Steph on Luka
DONUT 4: DRUBBED WITHOUT DRAYMOND - Mavs had to feel good with a 79-68 and Warriors' star Draymond Green heading to the bench with his fifth foul midway through the third quarter. Instead, Dallas was outscored 34-15 with Green on the bench as Kevon Looney took up the slack with a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds.
DONUT 5: TERRIBLE TWOS - Teams trailing 0-2 in NBA conference finals are only 6-71, but ... we know what the Mavs did to the Suns in the second round.
DONUT 6: BERTANS THE BULLY? - Davis Bertans made a corner 3-pointer, fell down when clearly fouled by the Warriors' Damion Lee and then attempted to stand up. As Bertans attempted to get up, Lee tried to leap over him and the two accidentally tangled and fell back to the floor. Somehow - even after a review - referees called a double-technical. For what we're still not sure. It's playoff basketball and once upon a time we knew that as incidental contact. Said TNT's Charles Barkley, "That's the worst officiated half in the history of basketball."
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DONUT 7: LUKA LEGEND - After producing more turnovers than assists in Game 1, we knew Luka would be better in Game 2 and indeed he was with 42 points and only two turnovers. But when your backcourt scores 73 points (Jalen Brunson chipped in 31) and you build a 19-point lead, it's more than disheartening to wind up losing by nine. This broke Dallas' 25-game winning streak when leading by 10+ points. Ouch.
DONUT 8: THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS - Roads to championships are never smooth. In 2011, Dirk Nowitzki's Mavs had to vanquish LaMarcus Aldridge's Blazers, Kobe Bryant's Lakers, the Thunder with Kevin Durant-James-Harden-Russell Westbrook and, finally, the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Miami Heat. If Dallas makes the NBA Finals this year it'll have to survive an impressive defensive gauntlet. In the first round the Mavs beat the Jazz (All-Defense First Teamer Rudy Gobert). In the second round they got past the Suns (All-Defense Second Teamer Mikal Bridges). In this series it's the Warriors (All-Defense Second Teamer Green). And in the Finals they would face either the Celtics (Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart) or the Heat (All-Defense Second Teamer Bam Adebayo).
DONUT 9: FAST AND FURIOUS - The Mavs shot out of the gate, making six 3-pointers in building a 26-10 lead. But the Warriors didn't blink, responding with a push-the-pace 13-0 run that trimmed Dallas' lead to only seven points after the first quarter.
Immune to the 2nd T
Lots of attention for Luka
DONUT 10: BETTER ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH - For most of Game 2 the Mavs played harder, faster, smarter and better than the Warriors. On offense they were aggressive off the dribble and into the paint and on defense they were more physical. But in the second half they missed shots, which inexplicably slowed their pace. Against most teams, 21 3-pointers will win. The Warriors - who got 32 points from Steph Curry and managed a 13-rebound edge - aren't most teams.
DONUT 11: THRICE AS NICE - After making only 11 of 48 3-pointers in Game 1, the Mavs made a playoff franchise-record 15 in Game 2 ... in the first half. We're not real good at math, but the Mavs had 72 points at the half and you usually win games if you score 144. That pace, of course, slowed considerably when they missed 11 of 13 3s in the third quarter.
DONUT 12: HOME SWEET HOME? - Good news? Game 3 is Sunday night at American Airlines Center, where Dallas is 5-1 in the playoffs with a five-game winning streak.