With the opportunity to sweep the Dallas Mavericks, the Warriors’ vets put up a stinker. This wasn’t exactly a major surprise, but it was still a chasmic drop off in quality from the rest of the series.
It was a 119-109 loss that sends the series back to San Francisco for a Thursday night Game 5.
The last time the Warriors swept a playoff series was the last time they played in the Western Conference Finals, a 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019.
They looked mildly interested in repeating that, for at least the first quarter. But once the Mavericks got hot, the Warriors did a less severe impression of their Game 5 chair fold against the Memphis Grizzlies.
When they know the game is lost, and it’s not a must win, Golden State has almost a tacit, throw-in-the-towel response.
The Mavericks, with nothing left to lose, came out firing. They were always likely to get at least one game in this series.
Despite the clear deficit in talent throughout this series, Dallas has always been a hit or miss team. There’s no real in between with them.
It’s either brick-laying or flamethrowing, and for three quarters of Tuesday night’s game, it was the latter for them.
A game after Reggie Bullock went 0-for-10, he had 15 points, going 5-for-8 from deep. He was sort of a bellwether for the rest of the team, with Dorian Finney-Smith adding 21 points, Maxi Kleber adding 11, and even Frank Ntilikina tallying 5.
When Mavericks players not named Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson get going, they are an extremely difficult team to contain. The problem is that their recipe is far less reliable than Golden State’s.
You could even see that in the fourth quarter. That heat was checked, as the Mavericks started to miss their shots and Doncic, with 7:23 left in the game, had to return because they were scuttling so brutally.
The Warriors bench mob came through and gave Doncic and the Mavericks fits. It wasn’t enough to secure a win, but it was a positive end to an otherwise poor night.
Rookie lineup experiment pays dividends
Steve Kerr got creative with his rotations on Tuesday night. After jettisoning Damion Lee from the lineup for Moses Moody, and sitting Jonathan Kuminga for the full duration of the series after starting him three times in the prior series, he put both on the floor at the same time in the first half.
The lineup struggled, as the Mavericks went on an 8-0 run while they were in the game, but much of that was the product of some bad misses and unimpressive decisions from the likes of Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole.
There were some moments from both Moody and Kuminga, but it didn’t quite click in the first half.
But when the Warriors were down and out, it was the young guys that gave them an almost legitimate chance to win the game.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Golden State trailed 99-70. A lineup of Kuminga, Moody, Poole, Lee and Nemanja Bjelica went scorched earth on the Mavericks.
With 3:23 left on the clock, Kuminga hit a three that cut the Dallas lead to 110-102. A game that was lost had life and Stephen Curry tagged back in, with Klay Thompson following later.
Dallas eventually regained control, but it was a nervy bit of business on their end, sparked by energetic zone defense and stellar shooting from the young Warriors.
It begged the question, should that young lineup have finished the game? Kuminga had 17 points and 8 rebounds, Moody had 10 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals and felt like they were the only players with the juice to push the Warriors in the right direction.
“Strange how hard it rains now“
Weird things happened in Dallas on Tuesday. Before the start of the second half, with the Warriors trailing by 15 points, it started to rain indoors.
There was a more than 10-minute delay as maintenance crews and other staff used a variety of towels, tarps and other assorted equipment to sort out a leak that took quite a bit of effort to plug.
It is indeed “strange how hard it rains” — as Dallas native Norah Jones sang on “Rain” — when that rain comes through the roof.
The facial expressions on display were something to behold, most of all from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
The weirdness, in completely unrelated fashion, continued later, when Draymond Green did this. It wasn’t a make, but it wasn’t quite a miss. It just… was.