This game was a tale of two halves.
In the first half, the Mavericks showed the resilience they’ve displayed after losing by 20 points. They knocked down their shots, got an incredible offensive lift from their one-two punch, Dončić and Brunson, accounting for 73 of 112 points. The Mavs surpassed their threes with 14 by the end of the first half – compared to the 11 they made in Game 1.
For good measure, the Mavs scored 72 points and had Draymond Green with three fouls by halftime. They won their one-on-one matchups, had the advantage in the turnover column and avoided Kevin Looney in pick-and-rolls. The cherry on top was Dončić shushing the crowd after knocking down a 30-foot three point jumper to end the second quarter. You couldn’t ask for a better team effort and response after a humiliating loss.
But unlike the Jazz and Suns, Warriors don’t blink when trailing by double digits and will continue to attack. If you’ve watched any games in the Kerr-Curry era, you would know that no lead is too great for them to overcome. Their offense normally is more aggressive in the second half. And likewise, for the second game in a row, they outperformed the Mavs in the third quarter. This is where things shifted and dictated the outcome of the game. The Warriors absorbed the Mavs’ best punches and were able to deliver body blows of their own.
Kevin Looney Problem
The Mavericks intentionally ran into the problem they avoided in the first half. With a 12-point lead to start the third quarter, Dončić and Brunson went away from their one-on-one matchups and started hunting Looney in the switch. Dončić managed an unfruitful 0-3 against Looney as the primary defender. Offensively, Looney feasted on drop-offs from his guards who had the Mavericks defense on their heels with finesse ball handles, ball movement and screen sets.
Though the numbers favored Looney this game, the eye test also showed he was able to stay in front of Dončić and Brunson. And in some instances, on the same plays, stayed on the hip of the Mavs playmakers and recovered to grab rebounds. He did everything the Warriors needed to do and became a problem the Mavs couldn’t solve. Looney hasn’t scored double digits in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In both games of the Western Conference Finals, he scored 10 points in Game 1, and a career high 21 points in Game 2.
Points in the Paint
Looney wasn’t the only player who feasted in the paint. Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins relentlessly pursued the paint from Mavs hard closeouts. Constant motion on offense from Warriors and ruthlessly going after Dončić, helped them find ways in the paint. Warriors’ quickness and shiftiness got the best of Mavs perimeter defenders. Curry made the right reads from double teams and trap blitzes.
Warriors won their one-on-one matchups. Once Warriors guards got in the paint, Mavs defense collapsed. Curry and company were met with little resistance, which often resulted in a clean layup with the Mavs too late on the closeout. Attacking the paint was their bread and butter as it served them well in the second half. They finished the half with a whopping 38 points in the paint, more than the Mavs total, 30, for the game. No amount of 3’s, 21 to be exact, can overcome that.
“Bad defense, that’s it. We got to improve a lot. We rely too much on the three, weren’t attacking the paint much. We have to rely more getting to the paint and kick outs.” Luka Dončić stated after Game 2.
Have we mentioned how much the Mavericks love shooting threes? When they’re firing on all cylinders, i.e., the first half, 15-of-27 from 3, they are unstoppable. But it’s also a double-edged sword.
Mavericks were in the bonus in the third quarter with a 76-70 lead with six minutes left. By the end of the quarter, they only took four free throws. Mavericks had their opportunities in both halves to widen the lead. The team seemed content on settling for the threes, regardless of their evaporating lead, deficit, or defensive scheme. Kerr and the Warriors knew the scorching first half would simmer. Their lack of paint aggression provided a lopsided offensive diet that proved detrimental in keeping things within striking distance.
Though the Mavs made a game high 21 three-pointers, they only made 30 points in the paint, half of the 62 points the Warriors made in the paint. Mavs missed opportunities by driving from the baseline from the five out. They struggled against zone defense and bailed out the Warriors with three-pointers. Their paint attack avoidance made the offense one-dimensional and made things harder for themselves when they opted for three-pointers.
They finished the second half 6-of-18 from 3.
Kidd and Timeouts
During the Warriors third quarter explosion, Kidd did not call a timeout. Instead, Kidd motioned to his team to keep going, putting trust in his players to figure it out, for better or for worse. Mavs saw their 12-point lead trimmed to two by the end of the third quarter. Unlike his predecessor, he’s been reluctant to call timeouts amid momentum swings.
His second timeout came in the fourth quarter, with three minutes left, when the Warriors had the lead 112-103, with their deafening crowd cheering them on. The Warriors made 5-of-6 3’s in the fourth quarter. Mavs continued to get beat off the dribble, pummeled in the paint and was still chucking up from behind the arc. The Mavericks were outscored 68 to 45 in the second half. Safe to say, the team didn’t figure it out and got no help from Kidd in the process.
“You can’t ask the coach to always call a timeout. We believe in the team to execute. Sometimes you have to put the ball in the basket to stop a run… If you’re not getting stops on the other end, it’s a blow out.” Jason Kidd on his management of calling timeouts.
Per Stat Muse: Most playoff losses when scoring 40+ points since Luka’s first playoffs in 2020: 5 — Luka. The Mavs are 2-3 in those contests.
Mavs bench provided little contribution. The Warriors got a 35-point boost from theirs, while the Mavs bench accumulated for 13 points.