When searching for something to blame regarding the Dallas Mavericks’ 3-0 deficit to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, look no further than Dallas’ inability to rebound.
The 109-100 Dallas loss to Golden State on Sunday in American Airlines Center was typified by the inability of anyone — not named Luka Doncic — wearing a Mavericks uniform to compete with the veteran-ladened Warriors in the rebounding battle.
“You can’t give them second opportunities with Klay [Thompson], Steph [Curry] and [Andrew] Wiggins,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said. “We aren’t going to match them guy-for-guy. We got to throw our team at their team.
“I’ve said we’re going to live and die by the three, but we’re also dying by not getting rebounds.”
Golden State grabbed a team total of 47 rebounds, while Dallas clawed for merely 33. Doncic grabbed 11 rebounds, and following him was Jalen Brunson with five. Golden State also dominated the offensive rebounding battle 14 to seven. Dallas’ small-ball lineup that hit enough threes to get it to the Western Conference finals has floundered in the face of a team that is flat out better. And the concession Kidd makes in the rebounding battle in playing small is singlehandedly sinking the Mavericks’ hopes of reaching the NBA Finals.
“Second chance points are killing us,” Doncic, who scored 40 points, said. “The rebounding is making a big difference.”
Dallas can’t stop the Warriors frontcourt
Everyone knew coming into the series that Curry was the focal point. As he goes, so does the Warriors’ offense. What wasn’t expected was Dallas’ complete lack of a paint presence against the relatively small Golden State frontcourt.
In Game 3, Kevon Looney and Wiggins had 12 and 11 rebounds. Looney dominated Game 3 the same way he controlled Game 2, collapsing Dallas’ defense with his internal gravity around the basket. His size, relative to Dallas’ lack thereof, has forced Dallas to adjust for the first time during the playoffs.
By the fourth quarter of Game 3, Kidd abandoned playing both Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber. The two were a combined -19 and they collected a staggeringly low six total rebounds.
Instead, Kidd elected to roll with Spencer Dinwiddie late in the game, who was one of the few Mavericks to show up eager to play.
Dinwiddie scored 26 points to compliment Brunson’s 20 and Doncic’s 40. But Dinwiddie didn’t make up for the lack of size on the Mavericks’ roster, which gave up countless second-chance points in critical moments. And with the second-chance points came the loss, which brought forth the verisimilitude of being down 3-0 to a team that has won three championships since 2015. For seemingly the first time all postseason reality is setting in for the Dallas Mavericks — and that picture isn’t so sweet.
“Right now it sucks and we’ve got to keep fighting,” Brunson said. “It’s only going to make us better.”
Ahead of Game 4
Players like Dinwiddie may say, “take it one game at a time,” but history says this series is all but over. Maybe the Mavericks steal one because the Warriors take their foot off the gas? Maybe. Reality suggests that, come Wednesday morning, everyone will be talking about the run Dallas had in the NBA playoffs — not the one it is on. Regardless, for a team with one of the youngest — and best — superstars in the league, this postseason has been quite the learning experience.
“I think after this season is done, whenever we are, I’m going to look back and learn a lot of things,” Doncic said. “This is my first conference finals in NBA. I’m 23, man. I’m still learning a lot.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.