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Five thoughts as Warriors falter late, lose on road to Mavericks

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors really miss Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. The defending champions have struggled as of late, and with a 112-109 loss to the Dallas Mavericks tonight, the Warriors are 2-4 in their last six games.

Here are five thoughts from tonight’s game:

Durant, Thompson go cold late

Both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson played solid games, but they couldn’t hit shots when it mattered most. Durant missed his last four shots in the fourth quarter, including a free throw that the Warriors needed to recover to have a chance at tying the game. He went 2-for-8 in the fourth, but still finished with 32 points.

Thompson was 3-for-8 in the fourth quarter, and missed a baseline jumper that would have put the Warriors up with less than two minutes to go. While he put up 22 points, he went 9-of-24 from the field and was an abysmal 2-of-11 from 3-point range. Without Curry and Green organizing the offense, neither Durant nor Thompson have been able to grab hold of the team on offensively when it matters.

Mavs are no joke, thanks to Doncic

When the Mavericks traded an extra first-round draft pick to select Luka Doncic third in this year’s draft, the team immediately turned itself into a pest in the Western Conference. With Doncic, Harrison Barnes, DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr. and a solid, albeit limited bench, the Mavericks came into this game after blowing out the Utah Jazz – a team pegged by many to finish in the top half of the conference – by 50 points in a 118-68 win.

Jordan has gone from a career average of roughly 45 percent at the free throw line to an absurd increase at 81.3 percent this season. He’s staggered his approach and always chats with one of his teammates at the line to distract himself, and it’s worked incredibly well. Meanwhile Smith Jr. and Barnes have been solid, and scored a combined 30-plus point per night.

But it all comes back to Doncic. The fact that he was not drafted first overall is something that becomes more and more mind-boggling each day. He led the best team (Real Madrid) in the second-best league in the world (La Liga ACB) to a La Liga championship and a EuroLeague championship. He hit a floater to put the Mavericks up 109-108 with about a minute to go. With 7.2 seconds remaining, he hit a pair of game-icing free throws and finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.

On the year, he came in averaging 19.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range. He’s undeniably been the Mavericks’ MVP this season and it’s hard to see how he won’t win Rookie of the Year if he stays healthy.

The bench played great

In the offseason, the Warriors ditched Zaza Pachulia (age 34), David West (age 38) and JaVale McGee (age 30) and brought in Jonas Jerebko (age 31), Alfonzo McKinnie (age 26), Marcus Derrickson (age 22), and DeMarcus Cousins (age 28), who is still a ways away from returning. Damion Lee (age 26) had a two-way contract secured a ways away.

On his first two defensive possessions eight minutes into the first quarter, Derrickson switched onto DeAndre Jordan and forced him to turn the ball over. Klay Thompson jumped out of bounds to grab the ball and tossed it to Derrickson, who made a nice pass while off-balance to secure the ball. On the next possession, he forced a bad shot from Jordan in the post, who missed it.

Then, he showed his inexperience, making a defensive mistake that allowed Harrison Barnes to get a pair of free throws. He was immediately switched out for Damion Lee, and talked to by Steve Kerr.

Lee came right in and hit a 3-pointer and grabbed a steal. At the start of the second quarter, he nailed another 3-pointer. Lee later picked the pocket of J.J. Barea and hit a three off the dribble. He was injured for the duration of the preseason, and has since flown under the radar, but he and Derrickson both have a shooting touch and defensive energy on two-way contracts that could be valuable as the Warriors struggle with injuries going forward.

Lee finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in addition to a 3-of-5 shooting performance from three. Besides Lee, Quinn Cook and Shaun Livingston were solid off the bench. Livingston had 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and Cook had 15 points while going 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep.

Damian Jones reappeared

At the start of this season, Jones was the talk of the Warriors. He started off with a series of hot games and massive dunks to provide a youthful athleticism to a now veteran lineup. Granted, all the other starters were healthy and the Warriors were blowing teams out, so his hot start was one of the few unexpected bright spots. But Jones has failed to provide that spark in recent games… until tonight

He entered the game for Jonas Jerebko tonight after five-and-a-half minutes. By the end of the game, Jones had tallied a career-high seven rebounds and four blocks, including a massive swat of Luka Doncic at the end of the third quarter.

What’s up with the traveling calls?

In recent games, the Warriors have faced a glut of traveling violations. Tonight, with one minute left in the first quarter, Kevin Durant was called for his second travel of the game. He was clearly fouled by Dwight Powell, but there was no foul called on the play. Instead, Durant was called for the travel, and Kerr picked up a technical foul arguing the call.

Durant then turned that into a pair of aggressive possessions. He drove hard into the lane and drew a foul, then pulled up to nail a contested mid-range jumper. There was a suspect push-off call from Dwight Powell that went uncalled in the fourth quarter, but the traveling violations came to a halt for the most part after the first quarter.


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