There’s no way around it, dropping Game 2 after leading by as many as 19 points stings. Nothing’s going to change that. But winning in front of a home crowd for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is about as good a salve as the team could hope for.
As a matter of course, it’s not ideal to make a habit of needing to climb out of 2-0 holes in a best-of-7 series, but we’ve seen this team do it before. Very recently. Last round, in fact. And that same old song-and-dance will have to start again by winning their first game in this series in front of their home crowd.
And so far in this post-season run, there’s no place like for this Mavericks team. They’re 5-and-1 in the AAC so far, with their only loss coming in the Game 1 loss to Utah when they were without Luka Doncic. The oddsmakers took note and, despite being down two games to none, have Dallas as 2.5-point home favorites. If nothing else, the Phoenix series has shown this squad the roadmap to a series comeback, and the first half of the ultimately unfortunate Game 2 showed them they can be successful against this Warriors team. If they put the two together, there’s still time to keep this ride alive.
Stay out of the deep end
Dallas, your pick-and-roll attack has met its match, and his name is Jordan Poole. After dismissing such defensive stalwarts as Rudy Gobert and Mikal Bridges, somehow, Dallas’ penetrating attack has been stymied by the third-year role player for Golden State. There’s a bit of a “who even is this guy” feeling watching Poole blow up Dallas’ attack, but with how much Dallas’ cast of characters has stepped up, there’s no room to complain.
The thing is, in the first half of Game 2, Dallas seemed to have adjusted after Poole knocked Dallas off course in Game 1. Instead, they went about attacking guys like Curry and Porter Jr with great success. It was only when they went away from that in the second half – too confident in a lead built on unsustainable three-point shooting – that the offense bogged down again and generated only 45 second-half points. In Game 3, Dallas needs to get back to what worked, and that includes working around Poole.
Luka Doncic’s infamous words “everyone acts tough when they’re up,” was the ominous mantra that foreshadowed the comeback against Phoenix. He and the rest of the team should heed these words themselves because, for Dallas, everyone’s tough when the threes are dropping.
The team came out after halftime and spent a good deal of the third quarter taking threes early in the shot clock. They weren’t all even bad shots (other than not going in), but Dallas got away from working into the paint and getting Golden State’s defense into rotation to open up those shots. Their 46.7% from three for the game masks the 6-of-18 second half; only five of which were corner-three attempts.
But the paint shouldn’t just be a focus on offense. Golden State, the team perhaps most credited with the NBA’s current three-point offensive obsession, annihilated Dallas inside. 62 of their 126 points came in the paint. Compare that to just 30 for Dallas.
Dallas defenders have been near-universally lauded for the job they’ve done thus far on the Jazz and Sun’s prolific offenses, but there’s much work to be done against this Warriors offense that can generate such easy looks for guys like Looney and Poole. The two shot a combined 17-of-24. Steph and Klay are Steph and Klay, but Dallas can’t get killed by surrendering easy layups to those guys.
Furthermore, in the fourth quarter, during what was Dallas’ last-ditch attempt to get back in the game, their defense couldn’t manufacture a stop to save their lives. With 4:32 to go, Klay Thompson hit a three-pointer, and then Golden State never missed another shot. They hit six in a row before Dallas tried to play the foul game, to no avail.
Crimes of opportunity
In every series thus far, Dallas has had a great deal of success when they’ve gotten turnovers. The turnovers, as much as anything else, were the death knell of a Suns offense that seemed, up until then, like a well-oiled machine.
In the first half of Game 2, Dallas forced 10 turnovers while coughing up just seven. The second half was an entirely different story, with Dallas cutting down their turnovers to five, but managing to swipe a paltry three from Golden State.
For how these teams prefer to play – Golden State pushing the pace, running the open court while Dallas runs a league-slowest pace, counting on Doncic to mastermind a halfcourt attack – winning the turnover battle should be a given. In the regular season, Dallas was tied for the second-fewest turnovers per game while Golden State surrendered more than any team other than the tanking Houston Rockets. Earning those extra offensive possessions are key to how Dallas plays. Many wins in this run have come by simply out-mathing their opponents. Both teams may shoot 45% or better from the field, but Dallas has found ways to take five, 10, and sometimes even 15 more shots, and many of those from beyond the arc. They’ve simply overwhelmed opposing defenses.
How to watch
You can watch the broadcast on TNT at 8:00 CST.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.