Dallas Mavericks save season with win over Golden State

DALLAS — After a second-quarter stoppage, Luka Doncic of the Mavericks lifted a leg and fired a meaningless shot from beyond the 3-point line whose only purpose seemed to be to entertain Doncic. -same. It was a skyscraper, the ball hurtling towards the rafters before collapsing to Earth. It took a hard bounce off the court and then went through the hoop.

As they waded into Tuesday’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, the Mavericks had to wonder if they could shoot with some consistency. Their season depended on it.

While Doncic’s circus stunt didn’t count, the degree of difficulty was outrageous. (Welcome to Luka’s world.) The crowd roars. And for a team on the ropes, it was a sign of good things to come.

A major comeback can only begin with a small first step, and Dallas is banking on the hope — however remote — that its 119-109 win over Golden State on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals is a building block for a miracle.

“We’re going to believe until the end,” said Doncic, who made several more conventional shots as the game progressed, finishing with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists. “We have more to do, you know. It’s nothing.”

You may have heard this before, but no team has overcome a three-game to zero deficit in NBA history. After avoiding elimination, Dallas, which now trails in the series, 3-1, wants to become the first. Game 5 is Thursday in San Francisco.

“We want to do something special,” said Dorian Finney-Smith of the Mavericks. “It will be very difficult, but we can do it. We just have to stick together.

If nothing else, Tuesday’s win brought credit to the Mavericks and their resilient young core. They could have folded for the season after polluting Game 3 with a buffet of ugly jump shots. In the loss, they went from 13 of 45 to 3 points. Reggie Bullock missed his 10 field goal attempts.

On Tuesday, the Mavericks shot 20 of 43 from 3-point range, assisted on 30 of their 41 field goals and unboxed a new and improved version of Bullock, who made 6 of his 10 3-point attempts.

“It was almost like an ego win,” Golden State’s Stephen Curry said, referring to the Mavericks. “You go out and you really have nothing to lose, so that confidence started early. We really haven’t done anything to slow it down, and that’s where the avalanche starts. So that’s a good lesson learned. You take your hat off to them because they took a lot of shots.

After going through a few injury-free and playoff-free seasons, Golden State remains one win away from its first conference championship since 2019. But throughout the playoffs, the team has faltered — at least momentarily — when it is to eliminate his opponents. .

In the first round, the Denver Nuggets avoided a sweep by defeating Golden State in Game 4. In the conference semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies extended their streak with a 39-point win. For the Nuggets and Grizzlies, the reprieve was temporary: Golden State closed each series in the next game.

The Mavericks present a different kind of challenge. For long stretches of Tuesday’s game, Golden State went to a zone defense, which Dallas coach Jason Kidd took as a compliment.

“Because they can’t play us one-on-one,” he said.

It was a strange game, both dark and festive in its own way. It was played hours after at least 19 children and two adults were killed by a gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, about 350 miles southwest of Dallas. During his pre-game press conference, Golden State coach Steve Kerr made an emotional plea for gun control legislation, while Kidd declined to answer questions. on basketball.

“We’re going to try to play along,” Kidd said. “We have no choice.”

Subsequently, Kerr struggled to place the night in an acceptable context.

“It’s too much to take in, too much to take in,” he said. “We’re moving on and hoping someone actually decides to value the lives of our citizens more than they value money and power.”

On a rainy evening, the start of the second half was delayed by leaks in the roof. By then, the Mavericks had a 15-point lead and were looking to build momentum.

It was not going to be easy: Golden State has a well-deserved reputation for pulverizing teams after halftime. In fact, in the first three games of the series, the Warriors had edged the Mavericks by a total of 31 points in the third quarter. Kidd wasn’t too worried.

“This group doesn’t let anything faze them,” he said.

Sure enough, Dallas shot 8 of 13 from 3-point range in the third quarter to extend its lead to 29. Golden State made a late run with its reserves, but was unsuccessful.

It’s an obvious observation, but Doncic can’t do it alone — not against Golden State. He certainly tried to do his part in Game 2, when he scored 42, and in Game 3, when he scored 40. The Mavericks lost both.

On Tuesday, he got help from little lights like Bullock and Finney-Smith, and even Maxi Kleber, who came off the bench to snap his series nightmare by shooting 5-of-6 from the field.

“If they make shots,” said Doncic, “I think it’s hard to beat us.”

The Mavericks just need to do the same thing three more times. No circus plan required.

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