2021-2022 NBA Playoffs

4 Observations in Game 1 Loss

After taking down the #1 seed Phoenix Suns in the semifinals, the Mavericks’ new opponent Golden State Warriors and their raucous fans were waiting for Luka Doncic and company. Many factors contributed to their 25-point loss 112-87 at Chase Center. The numbers weren’t pretty in this game. Here are some observations of Game 1.

Die by the Three

The three-point hill is what the Mavericks have chosen to die on. Their surprising postseason run is in large part of their three-point makes and attempts. There is no in-between for this team. Take for instance when the score was 13-16 in favor of the Warriors in the first quarter. The Mavericks, within striking distance, had some decent looks to make it a one-point margin or tie. They came up empty in the next five possessions, all three-point attempts as the chosen shot selection. And all attempts clanked off the rim. They closed out the first quarter connecting on 3 out of 19 from beyond the arc.

“We can do things to be better. In the first half we had great looks, but couldn’t make them. It’s one game that’s what playoffs is about, if you lose by 1 or lose by 40, it’s a loss… We believe, somebody got to get to 4 first, it’s going to be a good series.” Luka Doncic said in postgame after losing Game 1.

Still, Mavericks had a viable chance by halftime only down 45-54, despite shooting a dreadful 24 percent from three.

It was a completely different game by the third quarter. The Warriors were stingier on defense and showed different schemes that the Mavericks didn’t seem keen on trying to attack. Mavericks played a perimeter game in which they settled for three pointers and finished the game with 29 percent from three point range. In contrast, the Warriors chose to play the two-point game with an efficient 56 percent from the field goal.

It’s not hard to figure out what went wrong from the Mavericks in their Game 1 defeat. Their game depends so much on making threes and it wasn’t their night. Coincidentally, their inefficient shooting night created other woes they couldn’t overcome.

“Great looks, just didn’t go down. It happens, it’s basketball. Hopefully we get those looks in Game 2 and make them. When you shoot 48 threes, you got to make some.” Jason Kidd stated after Game 1.

Luka Doncic Poor Shooting

Doncic deserves all the praise he received in the past 72 hours leading up to game 1. He is no doubt one of the best players remaining in the playoffs. His Game 7 performance against the Suns was nothing short of magnificent and entertaining. He doesn’t fold on the biggest stage and brightest lights. However, even the best players lay an egg every now and then and Doncic is no different.

Doncic scored 18 points by the first half and finished the game with 20 points. He had more turnovers in the third quarter than points. His last two points came in the third quarter. Much of the credit goes to Andrew Wiggins for playing Doncic up front and the Warriors playing defense-by-committee. Kevin Looney was great as a help defender and was able to stay with Doncic when he attacked the paint. Doncic also didn’t help his cause by settling for tough stepback 25-foot three pointers. Again, credit Warriors defense for being aggressive at all three levels, but Doncic didn’t make it easy for himself by tossing up tough shots.

Side note: Wiggins had his best game of this postseason. (He had 15 points in the first half.) He attacked Doncic early and made Doncic work as the defender. It’s a strategy that Phoenix Suns successfully exploited in games 1 and 2. His athleticism gave Doncic problems offensively and defensively.  

Brunson Shooting Struggles

Mavericks second best player Jalen Brunson didn’t have a great shooting night, either. As usual, Brunson was able to get his spots with his downhill type of offense but struggled to convert beyond the arc. He’s an inside-out type player who’s more sufficient from the paint. He took advantage of Looney on some switches and was able to create enough space over his 7’4 wingspan.

His game disappeared once the game got away from the Mavericks in the third quarter. He missed all five three-point attempts over the course of the game and had trouble finishing at the rim when help defenders surrounded him. Brunson will continue to get open shots because that’s the type of offense Doncic creates. Mavericks can’t afford poor shooting from Brunson to win this series. They will need their second shot creator to carry the load when Doncic shows capacity of being human.

Warriors Pace and Mavs Transition Defense

Warriors and Mavericks are Yin and yang when it comes to pace. Mavericks are slow and methodical, while the Warriors push the pace at a high rate to create flurries of motion in transition. Game 1 favored the Warriors as they were able to limit the Mavericks to one possession and pushed the ball up the floor. The advantage when to the Warriors who made 18 fastbreak points to Mavericks 7. At different times, when Curry pushed the ball, Mavericks defenders were scattered and looked a few steps behind as they tried to recover lost ground. This will be a new challenge for the Mavericks they will have to address in the coming games.

Notable mentions 

Maxi Kleber Foul Trouble

Kleber’s knack for early foul trouble continues to be an issue. He picked up three fouls in the first half. He’s the better option between him and Powell as a floor spacer and someone who can knock down the three. 

Spencer Dinwiddie Resurgence

It felt like Dinwiddie had the best offensive game for the Mavericks, hitting 5-11 shots, and finishing with 17 points in 24 minutes. He continued to attack the paint and seemed less passive as a decision maker. More than anything, he seems to be thinking less and just playing ball by getting to his spots and stepping into his shot with confidence. If the Mavericks have any chance in this series, they need Dinwiddie to continue play with this resurgence aggression.

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