• Complete coverage of the Warriors-Mavericks series
SAN FRANCISCO— The Warriors didn’t lose The Kevon Looney Game, or flip the switch and the Mavericks in the process. So here are five takeaways from Game 2 and how the Warriors pulled away from two NBA Finals wins.
1. Kevon was on
Let’s give this man the applause he deserves. Kevon Looney, from start to finish, was the most valuable player on the court for the Warriors. That’s when you factor in his inside buckets, his rebounds, his role in sparking a comeback with a big third quarter and how he took over when Draymond Green developed issues. of fault (and was ultimately the victim of a fault). Were those really MVP chants he heard in the second half? Sure.
And let’s go one step further: Looney has a strong playoff run, which includes a 22-rebound game in the Memphis Series. But back to Friday’s signature 21-point, 12-rebound performance: Looney was still in position to catch a stream from his teammates and made 10 of 14 shots. To say it was Looney’s most impressive offensive production would be an understatement. He is a career scoring 4.7 points per game in the NBA and hadn’t topped 20 points in a game since his freshman year at UCLA.
That said… the Mavericks, as is their greatest weakness, offer little to nothing in terms of big man resistance. They made him look like Kevon Olajuwon. Starting center Dwight Powell didn’t score a goal and saw just seven minutes. And on a per-minute basis, Maxi Kleber was actually worse, with one rebound (no typo) in 33 minutes (and just three points). At one point, Kleber desperately reached out and caught Looney on a layup attempt, which probably shocked Looney more than anything that someone would use this against him. He was that, uh, unstoppable.
“He found a way to impact games,” Steph Curry said. “He has composure, experience and know-how.”
Looney helped the Warriors get 62 points in the paint. He’s also the first Warriors center to post a 20-10 playoff game since Robert Parish in 1977. That says a lot about Warriors centers of the past. But a little about Kevon too, at least in this game, that night. Never mind that he probably won’t score 20 more points in this series, or ever again. When they needed them, he provided them.
“I feel grateful to be part of this team and now I have a real chance to make a difference and help this team win,” he said.
2. Mavs did 3s, until they didn’t
It happened suddenly, then quickly. We’re talking about the Mavs’ hot-then-cold relationship with the long shot. A team that was 11 for 48 in Game 1 would eventually hit those open looks, coach Jason Kidd predicted, and that was the case in Game 2. The Mavs starters were 14 for 18 since the start of the first halftime, and look no further for why the Mavericks held a 19-point lead.
But that third quarter was downright bad. Dallas went 2 for 13, and when those shots didn’t fall, Dallas freaked out and forgot how to explore other ways to score.
As Kidd said, “We have to understand that when we shoot three-of-four (three) and we miss, you have to go to the rim and put the ball in the paint, you have to get to the free-throw line. . When you go 2 for 13 and count on the 3, you can die of it, and we died in the third quarter.
One of the reasons for the Warriors victory is that Golden State didn’t always rely on the 3. The Warriors reached the rim and had a foothold with a paint presence, which was lost on Dallas.
You might wonder if the Mavericks have that kind of personnel. Outside of Doncic, Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie (and Dinwiddie was remarkably soft on Friday), Dallas lacks designers. And it showed in Game 2.
3. Warriors guards were too fast for Dallas
This was demonstrated consistently on Friday and in Game 1 as well. Curry attacks the rim as much as he shoots 3s. Jordan Poole also pulls his man out of the dribble. They combined for 55 points in Game 2 and devastated Dallas in the second-half scramble.
That’s a bit of a surprise and a change from the last round, when the Mavs held Devin Booker the last two games of this series and frustrated Chris Paul for most of the series. If the Mavs haven’t limited those two, they’re not even playing the Warriors right now.
And if the Mavericks intend to win four out of five games and claim this series, they’ll have to go back to the same formula that worked against Phoenix. Because except for the first quarter of Game 1, Curry sizzled, and when Poole comes off the bench, there’s no drop in quality or impact.
They combined for 22 and went 6-for-7 in the fourth quarter when the Warriors retired for good. In that sense, Curry and Poole were solid close friends, never letting the Mavs back into the mix.
The biggest bright spot in this scenario, of course, is how high Poole’s confidence remains. These were the first significant games of his brief NBA career; remember, in February of last year he was in the G League. Since taking on a bigger role while Klay Thompson recovered from his injuries, Poole hasn’t been afraid of the moment or the challenge.
“When Steph comes off the floor, the defense tends to focus on me a bit, so it’s just about continuing to be aggressive, not just trying to make plays for my teammates, but looking for more shots to keep rhythm,” he said.
The longer he keeps that attitude and that bucket count, the Warriors don’t have to sweat Klay Thompson’s inconsistency. Poole might even be the best late game option.
4. Luka becomes a problem again
Do you remember this defense launched against him in Game 1 by the Warriors? It wasn’t so effective this time. Doncic did what he wanted: isolate himself, draw fouls, break the defense, get buckets.
“It’s hard work,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Doncic is an incredible player. Against someone that good, you’re just trying to limit the easy stuff.
You might wonder if he was as damaging as the 42 points might suggest; Doncic was 12 under on the night and a slew of runs came after Golden State took the lead for good midway through the fourth.
Again: 42 is 42. And he did it with a shoulder that had a little discomfort. Doncic remains the most important player on the pitch, which means he, more than anyone, will dictate how this series plays out. When he started strong, going 18 in the first quarter, the Mavericks had full control as Golden State’s defense had to respect Luka, which left his teammates open.
What’s disheartening for Dallas, aside from the third quarter, is how the Mavs can lose despite Doncic and Brunson’s 73 points. And 117 points should be enough to win.
“I think offensively we were doing well,” said Doncic. “The defensive end needs to improve a lot.”
5. Warriors have been here, done this
The experience factor is heavily in favor of Golden State, primarily due to the championship pedigree of Curry, Green and Thompson. Some of that experience is reflected in their dominance at home, where they are now 8-0 in the playoffs. The simple math says that if this streak continues, the Warriors will not only win the Western Conference Finals by staying unbeatable at home, they will also win the championship if Miami doesn’t come out of the East.
Of course, it’s not that simple. And the Warriors will certainly see an unfriendly vibe in Dallas in the next two games.
“We’ve just seen in the last two weeks what Dallas is capable of,” Kerr said. “They were down 2-0 against Phoenix and came back and won in seven. Dallas is a really tough environment, great home court.
That said, the Warriors present the Mavericks with a difficult task: try to beat a more proven team for the second straight series. Maybe that’s a lot to ask of a Dallas team making their first appearance in the Conference Finals with Doncic.
For the Mavericks, holding the court at home will require dominating the 3, Doncic dominating and the Mavericks rediscovering the art of playing defense. In the absence of that, the Warriors may be bringing a little too much: Curry, Poole, Draymond, Thompson… and now Looney?
* * *
Shaun Powell covered the NBA for over 25 years. You can email him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.
#takeaways #Warriors #Game #return #Mavs