Welp. No Rondo. Dirk was bad. Monta was worse. Steph Curry shot flaming hot magma. And yet the Dallas Mavericks played an exciting damn basketball game against arguably the best team in the league, only really surrendering with about two or three minutes left in the game. You can't really ask for much more, to be honest.
The Mavericks really had a shot at winning this, though I have no earthly idea how.
Before we get to the less fun stuff, let's talk about that first quarter for a bit, yeah? That was fun! Dallas started the game on an 8-0 run and held a 20-point lead at one point. Everything seemed to be working. The offense looked like the historic offense from the first part of the season, and the defense was really pretty solid despite the fact that the starting backcourt of JJ and Monta gave up probably a full foot of height to Curry and Thompson.
Really, the defense was good. Players were switching well, everyone was aggressive, and the Mavs created just a ton of points off turnovers. Aminu in particular played with great energy all game. He was the first Mav off the bench and immediately picked up a steal and a block. While Golden State looked shaky at first, they started hitting 3s about midway through the quarter. Yet the Mavs stayed well ahead by keeping up the energy and execution, forcing turnover after turnover for easy points.
Unfortunately, that didn't last.
The Warriors continued hitting 3s at a torrid pace. They ended up shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and took just under 40 3-point attempts. If there was one consistent in this game, it was that the Dubs were raining fire from range.
After the first quarter, the Mavs offense just wasn't the same. It was still really good at times, but also really, really bad at others. There were stretches were not a single Mav could hit a shot to save his life. A lot of this was poor bench play. While the Mavs’ starters scored 47 points on 58 percent shooting in the first half, most of the Warriors' second quarter comeback came against Dirk and bench players, including a 13-0 run. The defense stopped being good and Golden State got really confident.
By the third quarter, it was pretty clear that the Mavs were, in the words of the immortal Doyle Rader, going full Left Shark on us. The offense couldn’t get anything going, and the Dubs hit 3 after 3 after soul-crushing 3. The execution just wasn't there. Fortunately, though, Dallas kept its effort and energy up even during the worst stretches, and this game never really felt out of reach until about three minutes left in the game.
But Steph Curry. Holy crap. Dude scored 51 points and shot 62.5 percent from 3. I don't know if I've ever seen anything like that. Maybe Rondo could've slowed him down a bit. But he was putting up at least 30 tonight no matter who guarded him.
In the end, the execution issues came back to bite the Mavs. The Mavs were within five points fairly late in the fourth quarter, but kept making boneheaded errors, whether it was missing easy layups or making terrible passes that led to turnovers. You can't do that against a team like the Warriors, and the lead really ballooned in the last few minutes of the game. Still, felt like everyone thought this would be a blowout loss tonight, and for most of the night, it totally wasn't. All about those moral victories.
Now for some bullet points (everyone loves bullet points, right?):
- Parsons was really good tonight. He led the team in scoring with 24, and at times it felt like he was the only Maverick who could make a bucket. He used his gorgeous ball fake to get several Golden State defenders into the air to draw free throws. (Unfortunately, Parsons looked like Rondo on the line tonight, hitting about half his gimmes.) If there was an offensive player of the game for the Mavs, it was Parsons. He is really fun to watch when he is aggressive.
- And while I'm thinking about it: AMINU. Seriously, dude was instant energy off the bench tonight. Blocks, steals, rebounds, dunks. He even hit a corner three! Aminu really showed what an asset he can be when his offense isn't so painfully awful that it offsets all the good he does on the other end. Hope he keeps this up.
- I don't want to be too hard on the guy, but let's be honest. A lot of the problems the Mavs had in the 2nd quarter were Raymond-Felton related. It wasn't all his fault, but he was really bad to begin the quarter, and things just sort of snowballed from there. Golden State got confident. Dallas lost all semblance of execution. And all because Felton doesn't seem to remember how to play basketball.
- Four words: J.J. Barea Point God. Okay, maybe not. But Barea started the game really well, orchestrating a lot of the offensive success that built the Mavs' huge lead. As I alluded to a minute ago, the drop off between him and Felton was STEEP. He came back in at the end of the first half to provide enough of an offensive boost to staunch the second quarter bleeding. Sure, his defense on Curry in the second half was utter garbage, but let's be honest here, no one was going to stop Steph regardless. Unfortunately, Barea's offense tailed off towards the end as well. But still, I think he played about as well as you could've hoped.
- Tyson Chandler was the key to the Mavs staying in this game. 21 points and 17 rebounds. He was constantly picking up offensive rebounds off really stupid misses by his teammates. It seemed like every time the Warriors threatened to pull away, there was Tyson with a put-back slam or a wicked alley oop. He just kept with it and kept with it, and the team fed off of him at times. Alas, there's only so much one man can do.
- I'll end on a sad note. Monta and Dirk were bad tonight. Monta especially. Dirk at least had some really great moments, including an offensive rebound that drew free throws late in the game. Monta played bad defense tonight, didn't score much, missed some easy shots, and worst of all, made some terrible mistakes at really inopportune times. Like really, if either Dirk or Monta had been themselves tonight, Dallas might've won this. Monta has games like this occasionally, and you can live with that, but I'm really starting to get worried about Dirk. Good thing Holger is in town.