Mavs Avoid Sweep Against Warriors on Emotional Day in Dallas

DALLAS — Through the first three games of the Western Conference finals, the Warriors were thoroughly winning the defensive battle against the Mavericks.

Through a combination of looks, which included a hedge-and-recover man scheme, a little switching, some box-and-one and a good deal of zone, Golden State held Dallas to a 106.3 offensive rating from Games 1 to 3, an elite mark. Leave it to Mavs coach Jason Kidd to turn those schemes into a positive:

“The biggest compliment we’ve gotten is that they have to play zone because they can’t guard us 1-on-1.” Dallas was finally able to take advantage of the Warriors on Tuesday, recording their first win of the series as it heads back to the Bay with the Dubs still up 3–1.

The Mavs’ 119–109 win in Game 4 came on the strength of their outside shooting, as their threes finally started to drop like the rain through the leaky roof of Dallas’s arena.

After shooting only 32.6% on threes in the first three contests, the Mavs connected on 20-of-43 Tuesday night, good for 46.5%. For an example of how stark the turnaround was, in Game 3 Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith combined to shoot 2-of-12 from deep. In Game 4, they shot 10-of-17.

As Finney-Smith put it after the game: “If we were going to lose today, I wanted to go out shooting.” Threes have been a hallmark of Dallas’s playoff run. The attention paid to Luka Dončić often creates looks on the outside for the Mavs’ supporting cast.

The Warriors have been generally reluctant to give Luka the switches he wants in this series, and that reluctance, plus the incorporation of zone looks, can put the defense in constant rotations. In their postseason wins, the Mavs are shooting 40.8% on 42 threes a game. In their losses they shoot only 33.7% on 40.8 attempts per game.

Of all the teams left in the playoffs, Dallas has the best three-point percentage in wins, as well the highest number of attempts per game. After the game, Steve Kerr lamented his team’s performance, saying they were not alert or sharp defensively.

The Mavs’ offense—thanks to Luka—commands constant focus, not unlike the Warriors’ relentless motion. Golden State has been mixing in so many coverages that throughout much of the game assistant coach Mike Brown is off the bench yelling out assignments as Dallas takes the ball up the floor.

Even momentary lapses in communication can lead to an easy three for the Mavericks. On the other end of the floor, Golden State appeared lethargic. The Warriors weren’t able to mount much offense until the fourth quarter. The Dubs trailed by as many as 29 points in the second half, until a bench unit cut the lead to only eight points in the fourth quarter.