Riding a two game win streak, the Dallas Mavericks fought tooth and nail against the Golden State Warriors. The defending champs benefitted from an onslaught of two of the top-five players in the NBA, but the Mavericks held their own for most of the night and rolled with the jabs and haymakers the Warriors threw for 48 minutes.
Ultimately, the Mavericks fell, 119-114, but once again played the Warriors down to the wire. Tonight marks the largest margin of defeat for either team as the other two games were separated by only three and four points.
Here’s what we saw as the Mavericks fall to 20-23:
Steph Curry detonated
There’s really nothing quite like Curry going berserk on a basketball court. When every shot tickles the twine and the only person that can do anything about it is Curry himself, those are the nights that basketball purists yearn for. Tonight was one of those nights as Curry exploded for 48 points on 16-32 shooting including 11(!!)-of-19 from three. From the opening tip Curry was draining shots from all over the floor. His last three pointer was especially cruel as he yo-yoed the ball in front of Harrison Barnes as he walked him right under the arc, then casually pulled up and splashed the shot in.
What makes Curry exceptionally dangerous is how he moves without the ball. There was a play late in the fourth when DeAndre Jordan was switched on Curry and the Warriors guard danced with the ball, then gave it up. As soon as Jordan relaxed, Curry beelined back toward the ball, got it back and canned the open three. There’s not much you can do when Curry was in the groove he was in, and then when you sprinkle in a cool 28 points from Kevin Durant, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Warriors.
But the Mavericks were oh so close because...
There’s no place like home
The Mavericks are proving time and time again that they can compete with anyone in the American Airlines Center, and tonight further cemented that. The Mavericks survived an absolute onslaught from Curry (see above) which completely overshadowed 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Durant, and were a few Luka Doncic threes barely rimming out away from knocking out the defending champs.
The Mavericks were led by Doncic who contributed 26 points, six rebounds, five assists, five turnovers and connected five three point attempts. He had a few good looks from deep in the final few minutes, but the shots barely rolled out. I guess Doncic can’t pull rabbits out of his hat every night.
All in all Dallas hit 42 percent of its three-point attempts, out rebounded Golden State by two and committed only 12 turnovers, but as it’s been mentioned (see above), it’s really really hard to beat the Warriors when Curry nukes you for 48 points.
The bench fared well post J.J. Barea
One surprising development was the play of the bench after losing Barea for the season to a torn achilles. On the night, the Dallas bench outscored the Golden State bench 39 to 21. Jalen Brunson, who will most likely try to fill the void left by Barea, played well for the most part. His shooting percentage looks poor, but that’s pulled down somewhat by his decisions to drive to the basket only to get blocked by Durant and the other Warriors big men. However, he held his own on the defensive end and certainly looked like he belonged.
Additionally, Devin Harris had a fantastic fourth quarter largely contributing to a Mavericks 11-0 run that gave Dallas the lead only for Curry to snatch it away in the final minutes. Harris had a few fast break buckets that energized the arena, and he almost caused the roof to blow off when he hit a three-point basket to put the Mavericks up 108-105 with about five minutes left in the game.
As the second half of the season progresses, it will become painfully obvious just how much the Mavericks miss Barea. After all, Brunson and Harris combined for only four assists, but for tonight, the rookie and the vet mostly softened the blow of losing a key cog in Barea.
The Mavericks have their work cut out for them coming up. They are back in action against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday followed by matchups with the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers.