DALLAS – Basketball stumbled into the periphery behind humanity for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, with the country and the NBA collectively reeling Tuesday from the tragedy unfolding 358 miles away from American Airlines Center in Uvalde, Texas.
Instead of talking personnel or X’s and O’s leading into tipoff for Dallas’ 119-109 win over Golden State, the coaches from each team struck somber notes to place proper perspective on the insignificance of Game 4 relative to the senseless loss of human life at Robb Elementary School.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd walked into the interview room first. Hat backward, the coach sat quietly and unfolded a piece of paper.
“I’d like to say that our hearts go out to the victims and families of the horrific events in Uvalde, Texas,” Kidd read, softly. “We send out condolences to our fellow Texans and keep them in our hearts. We truly will play with heavy hearts tonight for the community, for Robb Elementary School.”
Fifteen minutes later, Warriors coach Steve Kerr sat down for his pregame availability and immediately launched into a passionate plea to our country’s lawmakers.
In the midst of tragedy, there was still basketball to be played. And should not take anything away from the excitement these teams delivered under difficult circumstances in front of a sellout crowd of 20,810.
The Mavericks upped their record to 3-0 in elimination games this postseason on a night of firsts that helped the team become the ninth since 1970-71 to capture Game 4 of a conference finals series after trailing 3-0.
We get into that and more in our five takeaways from Game 4:
1. Dallas’ accuracy from deep is a major factor
A couple of paragraphs ago, we talked about Game 4 marking a night of firsts. Let’s start with the Mavericks shooting 50% on field goals for the first time in this series.
The Mavericks drilled 20 of 43 from 3-point range, too, hitting at least 20 from beyond the arc for the fourth time this postseason. Dallas jumped out the gates red hot, with Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber each knocking down a combined six 3s in the opening quarter. The trio finished the night making 12 of their 20 from downtown. Compare that to Game 3, when the trio clanged a combined 2-for-17 off the mic’d up rims at American Airlines Center.
Dallas’ hot streak of 3s came in bunches in Game 4, and you know superstar guard Luka Doncic joined the action, too.
Luka stepback 🎯 pic.twitter.com/ri4MLZ0SxR
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 25, 2022
The Mavs have now made 65 3-pointers in the West finals, which ranks as the most in the first four games of a conference finals series. That’s correct, it’s an NBA record and nine more than No. 2 on the all-time list, the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors.
Dallas owns a record of 20-3 this season when it hits 17 or more 3-pointers, and the team is 6-2 in the playoffs under those conditions.
Four of the team’s five starters made 3-pointers, as they combined to pour in 104 points, which registers as the most for that group this postseason (starting center Dwight Powell was scoreless).
2. Doncic thrives under pressure
Throw the Slovenian superstar into a pressure situation and watch him come out shining bright like a diamond. In five career elimination games, Doncic has cooked opponents for 30 points or more for an average of 38.3 points, which registers as the highest in NBA history.
On the same night, the guard was named All-NBA First Team for the third time, Doncic orchestrated his 17th career game with 30 points or more in the playoffs to tie Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant for the second-most by a player aged 23 or younger. LeBron James is the only player to put together more of those performances (21).
Game 4 also marked the 23-year-old point forward’s sixth 30-10-5 postseason showing. Only James put together more of those games before hitting the age of 24 (seven). Doncic ended the night just one assist shy of a triple-double.
“What he does for this team is incredible,” Kidd said. “Not just points and assists, but being able to rebound the ball. There at the end, he came up with a nice little blocked shot to pad his defensive stats. He’s our leader. Where he goes, we go. He loves that stage.”
3. Second and third quarters killer
Despite scorching Golden State for seven first-quarter 3-pointers on 58.3% accuracy, Dallas led by just four points (28-24) at the end of the opening frame. Now, throw in the team’s runaway second and third quarters, in which the Mavericks outscored the Warriors 71-46. That’s how Dallas strutted confidently into the fourth quarter leading by 29 points (99-70).
Even before that, Kerr started to sub out his starters with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter and the Mavs leading by 24.
4. One last first
The Mavericks came out victorious in the battle of the boards for the first time this series (45-42), but that win wasn’t as significant as the others in determining the outcome of this contest. Entering the game, Golden State had out-rebounded the home team 141-98 over the first three games, including an edge of 47-43 in Game 3 (14-7 on the offensive glass), leading to the Warriors outscoring Dallas 18-4 in second-chance points.
In Game 4, Golden State finished with the advantage in paint scoring (44-36) and second-chance points (9-3).
So, the Mavericks winning the glass in this one comes off as somewhat hollow. Especially, when considering Doncic pulled down 14 boards to tie the combined production of the other four starters. Warriors center Kevon Looney averaged a team-high 9.7 rebounds over the first three games of this series, but he was limited to just six boards in Game 4.
5. See you back at Chase Center
For a squad dripping in championship pedigree with three future Hall of Famers in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Golden State sure struggles to seal the deal in closeout games. The Game 4 setback against the Mavs was the third blown opportunity this postseason for the Warriors to knock out an opponent in an elimination game.
Golden State nearly swept Denver in the first round, but two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic prevented that by lighting up the Warriors for 37 points in a 126-121 Game 4 victory. Then, the club fumbled the bag again in failing to bounce Memphis from the conference semifinals, falling in Game 5 to force the deciding Game 6 at Chase Center.
“From our previous two series, we’ve learned that closeout games are very hard,” Looney said at the team’s shootaround ahead of Game 4. “You think teams are gonna just lay down, they’re not. They’re gonna go out there and give their best fight.”
The Warriors learned that the hard way in Game 4.
The fact is Golden State has completed just six sweeps out of 26 series under Kerr, and that’s not indictment at all on the team and coach, as much as it’s an indication of just how difficult it is to defeat an opponent four times in a row in the pressure-cooker environment of the NBA playoffs. Given the team’s extensive postseason experience, they knew exactly what was at stake. A four-game sweep would’ve provided the Warriors more than a week of rest and prep time for the NBA Finals, while also giving Otto Porter Jr. a little more time to heal, as he was held out of Game 4 due to a left foot injury suffered in the previous contest.
The folks at Chase Center will gladly take the consolation prize of revenue from tickets and concessions for a Game 5 in San Francisco.
“We believe that it’s just one game at a time. We did our part tonight,” Kidd said. “We found a way to win. Now, the next time is to find a way to win on the road. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s still 3-1, and we know going into Golden State it’s a tough place to win. But we’ve won there before. We just have to continue to take care of the ball and make shots.”
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