The first half looked promising for the Dallas Mavericks.
In the second half, that changed. Dallas lived by the 3-point shot in the first 24 minutes of game action, it died by it late in the game, allowing the Golden State Warriors to win Game 2 126-117 in the Chase Center.
“When you rely on the three, you can die by it,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “We have to understand when you miss three or four looks from three, you have to get to the paint and the free-throw line.”
Dallas shot an astounding 55 percent (15-of-27) from 3-point range during the first half of Game 2. In a juxtaposition to Game 1, Dallas made many of its wide-open catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts that didn’t go down previously.
Still, the Warriors never felt out of it. Truly great teams never do. And in the second half, when the 3-point well dried — to the tune of 33 percent (6-of-16) — Dallas’ mediocre offense and porous paint defense sunk any hope of stealing a game in San Fransico.
“I think we relied too much on the three,” Luka Doncic, who scored 42 points, said. “We have to attack the paint more.”
It’s hard for jump shooting teams to look consistent
Game 2 illuminated how, though Dallas is a great defensive team, the jump shot is wildly inconsistent from one quarter to the next. Against the Utah Jazz, the Mavericks could put them away with a barrage of threes in one eight-minute stretch.
Then, in the Western Conference semifinals, the Phoenix Suns imploded more than Dallas won.
The Warriors are the first team that is forcing the Mavericks to adjust to what they want to run offensively.
As a result, Kidd and the rest of the Mavericks look out of sorts.
During Dallas’ 3-point barrage in the first half of Game 2, while Stephen Curry stewed in foul trouble and Draymond Green was neutralized on offense and defense, Golden State wasn’t worried. They looked like every bit of the team that has been in situations like this before. So, at the start of the third quarter, when Dallas’ 3-point shot betrayed its patrons, Golden State attacked the paint, begging Dallas to stop Kevon Looney.
The Mavericks never did. And after the game, all Kidd could blame was the team’s defensive effort. That’s fine. But it didn’t help that Dallas’ one-dimensional offensive approach all but sealed the game when the Warriors stole the lead in the second half.
“We play no defense when we can’t score,” Kidd said.
Looking ahead to Game 3
Kidd’s admission of the truth everyone saw in Game 2 exemplifies why Dallas shouldn’t even be in the Western Conference finals in the first place. A team reliant on an obscene about of 3-point shots from over-performing role players isn’t cut out to win a championship — regardless of how good Doncic can be on a night-to-night basis.
During this playoff run, the Warriors are the first team to get punched in the mouth by Dallas and not blink. And for the first time all playoffs, it’s up to Dallas to figure out how to adjust to Golden State’s effusive greatness.
“You can’t ask the coach to always call a timeout,” Kidd said of the third quarter run Golden State went on. “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 blowout.”
The Mavericks know what needs to happen in Game 3, but it’s undecided whether they can adjust. Besides, it may be too little, too late.
“We have been in this position before, in the last series,” Reggie Bullock said. “Going back home with the best fans. We have to come in a mindset to pull two games at home and come back here for Game 5.”
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Feature image via Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.