DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks took the day off to regroup Saturday after falling into a 2-0 deficit for the second straight round this postseason by way of Golden State’s 126-117 victory Friday night in Game 2 at Chase Center.
With the series moving to American Airlines Center for Games 3 and 4, the Mavericks look to recapture the magic conjured in the Western Conference semifinals against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.
Dallas cast the first spell that round on its home floor.
“We’ve been in this position before,” Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock said. “Going back home, we’ve got some of the best fans in the world. They’re going to support us. They’re going to give us a lot of energy. We have to go out there with a great mindset to pull away two at home and be back in San Fran to be able to compete for Game 5.”
Here are four things to keep an eye on Sunday in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals:
1. Dallas déjà vu
We saw it before in the conference semifinals. Dallas falls into a 2-0 hole to the Phoenix Suns. Mavericks coach Jason Kidd keeps his cool, and calmly reiterates the notion his young team is essentially playing with house money.
This time, though, Dallas faces an experienced Warriors team hungry to reclaim their spot among the league’s elite.
“We’re on the road against one of the best teams in the league,” Kidd said Friday after his team’s Game 2 loss. “They held serve.”
Kidd said those exact last three words when the Mavs fell behind the Suns in the previous round. Then, the club reeled off victories in four of the next five games to stun Phoenix on its home court. Dallas hit the Suns with a variety of adjustments on Chris Paul and Devin Booker that ultimately stymied the favorites, while wearing them down as the series progressed.
Can the Mavs do the same against a squad led by three players in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson that have captured three titles together?
“Now, we have to go back and just get ready for Game 3 understanding what’s at stake,” Kidd said. “We have to protect home.”
For the most part, Dallas has done that well in 2021-22, finishing 29-12 in the regular season at American Airlines Center in addition to piling up a home record of 5-1 in the playoffs. The Mavericks haven’t advanced this far since their 2011 championship season, and that’s probably why you can feel so much energy from the fans in the arena once the blue lights start flashing and the techno music pumps through sound system and rattles the walls at American Airlines Center.
Bullock is certainly onto something when discussing Dallas’ home crowd.
2. Fourth quarter Curry
You’ve heard quite a bit about Golden State’s third-quarter flurry from Game 2, but don’t sleep on how Curry and the Warriors close out games.
We’ll highlight the damage Curry inflicts in the fourth quarter. Before we go there, though, let’s first start out with the Warriors as a whole. Since the NBA tipped off the shot-clock era (1954-55), Golden State has put together four postseason performances in which it scored 40 points or more in the final frame, with Friday’s 43-point showing in the fourth serving as just the latest example. Twice already in this year’s playoffs, the Warriors piled up 40 points or more in the fourth, starting with their Game 3 triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals, before they duplicated the feat in Friday’s win over the Mavericks.
Since 1954-55, Golden State owns a record of 3-1 when it scores in 40 points or more in the fourth quarter.
Credit Curry for serving as a catalyst for way the Warriors have trended late.
Curry averaged a league-best 9.4 points in the fourth quarter of the playoffs going into Saturday’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup between Boston and Miami with Ja Morant (8.4 points), Chris Paul (7.9), Jayson Tatum (7.6) and Jimmy Butler (7.3) all trailing.
Check out this little table below to see how impactful Curry has been in the fourth quarter of these 2022 NBA playoffs compared to the first three quarters:
Curry’s first three quarters vs. 4th quarter in 2022 playoffs
|First 3 quarters||4th quarter|
|Points per Quarter||6.2||9.4|
3. Curry might hit milestone in Dallas
Curry put together his 46th career postseason game of 30 points or more in Game 2, which ties him with future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki for 11th all-time. Considering the tear the Warriors guard is on, Curry might move past Nowitzki in Dallas with the latter in attendance in one of these next two games.
The 33-year-old has dropped 30 points or more in six of his 13 playoff games so far, and he’s averaging 26.5 points and 10 rebounds this series, while shooting 48.6% from the field and 47.4% from 3-point range.
4. Attacking the paint is key
Golden State has scored 60 points or more in the paint in five postseason contests over the last 25 years (three times in this year’s playoffs) and walked away with W’s in four of those outings, including Friday, when it outscored the Mavericks 62-30 in that area.
Kidd said after Game 2 that Dallas died by the 3 after it connected on just 2 of 13 from deep in the third quarter as the Warriors outscored the Mavs 25-13 to chop down a 17-point deficit to 9 points headed into a final frame they closed out with 43 points.
“We relied too much on the three,” Doncic said. “We’ve got to attack the paint more like they did. They attacked the paint a lot. They have two of the best shooters in the world, and they still attacked the paint.”
Interestingly, the Mavericks connected on a franchise-high 15 pointers in the first half, before stalling out in the third quarter.
If Doncic and Jalen Brunson can successfully go after Golden State in the paint on a consistent basis in Game 3, it provides more kickout opportunities to solid shooters such as Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Maxi Kleber out on the perimeter. The Warriors regularly find their shooters in similar fashion. But you’ve also got to give Golden State big Kevon Looney props for his career-high 21-point night and game-high 12 rebounds in dominating the paint.
“He’s incredibly underrated by everybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Best believe Dallas won’t overlook him again.
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