The Mavericks lost 109-100 to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night in Dallas to fall into an 0-3 series deficit in the Western Conference Finals.
The Mavericks had entered the game down 0-2 for the second consecutive series. In the second round, Dallas overcame that deficit to defeat the 64-win Phoenix Suns.
However, it appears there will be no such comeback this time, as no team has ever come back from an 0-3 series deficit to advance in NBA playoff history.
Luka Doncic had 40 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists for his eighth career 40-point playoff game in four seasons, passing Dirk Nowitzki for the most in Mavericks history, who had seven in his 21-year career. However, Dallas is 2-6 when Doncic scores 40+ in a playoff game, compared to a 6-1 record when Nowitzki accomplished that feat.
The Warriors’ assembly of All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers with championship experience have proven too much to overcome for the Mavericks. Golden State will be looking to complete a four-game sweep on Tuesday night in Dallas. The Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers during their last appearance in the conference finals in 2019 before losing to the Toronto Raptors in the finals.
“Right now it sucks, and we’ve got to keep fighting,” Jalen Brunson said. “But it’s only going to make us better.”
Dallas went down 12 points in the first six minutes, as the team made just 1-of-11 three-pointers to start the game. However, the Mavericks went on a run highlighted by a deep three-pointer from Doncic as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first quarter. The three trimmed Golden State’s lead to 25-22 to start the second.
Dallas continued its run into the second and took a lead as large as nine points (42-33) with four minutes remaining before halftime. The championship-tested Warriors responded by closing the quarter on a 15-5 run, highlighted by two three-pointers from Stephen Curry. Golden State took a 48-47 lead into the locker room.
The Warriors rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to win Game 2, buoyed by a massive third-quarter explosion. In Game 3, it was more of the same, as Golden State won the third quarter 30-21. Curry scored 11 in the quarter, and the Warriors held their biggest lead of the game at 78-64 in the final minute before the fourth period. Curry finished with 31 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds.
Doncic scored 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks tried desperately to take the victory, but the team fell short, and he was on the wrong end of a highlight-reel play.
Andrew Wiggins drove down the lane and threw down an explosive dunk over Doncic with 6:38 remaining. The play was initially waved off and called an offensive foul on Wiggins, but Golden State head coach Steve Kerr challenged the foul, and the call was overturned, allowing the dunk to count.
“I got hit a little bit, but that was impressive,” Doncic said. “I’m not going to lie. I saw the video again, and I was like, ‘Oh…’ That was pretty incredible. I wish had those bunnies.”
Wiggins had a playoff career-high 27 points, as Golden State had balance across the board with five players scoring in double-digits.
The Mavericks could not muster enough offense to overtake the experienced Warriors team in the final quarter.
Dallas made just 13-of-45 (28.9%) three-point attempts, shooting below 30% for the second time in three games in the series. Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber, both considered three-point specialists, combined to miss all 15 of their shot attempts, including 12 three-point misses. Both were scoreless, offsetting 26 points from Spencer Dinwiddie off the bench and 20 points from Jalen Brunson.
The Mavericks got their deficit down to five points (104-99) with just over a minute remaining in the game after a three-pointer from Dinwiddie capped an 11-2 run. However, Golden State responded again, as Jordan Poole hit the proverbial dagger on a three-pointer with 54 seconds remaining, essentially ending the game. Poole finished with 10 points.
Doncic was not pleased with his performance before his 21-point fourth quarter.
“The first three quarters, I played very bad, That’s on me,” he said. “I’m still learning. I think after this season is done, whenever we are, I’m going to look back and learn a lot of things. This is my first conference finals in the NBA. I’m 23, man. I’m still learning a lot.”
Few statistics favored the Mavericks, but rebounding proved to be the most significant difference. The Warriors out-rebounded Dallas 47-33, including 14 offensive rebounds for 18 second-chance points. The Mavericks have lost three straight games for the first time since early December.
“I’ve said we’re going to live and die by the three,” Dallas’ first-year head coach Jason Kidd said, “but we’re also dying by not getting rebounds.”
The Mavericks are playing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since Kidd was the starting point guard on the Dirk Nowitzki-led team that won the 2011 championship. As a championship-experienced leader of a roster with none, Kidd was not so negative after the loss, focusing on the bigger picture of the team’s experience through this playoff run.
“This is a lot bigger than just this one game or series,” Kidd said. “This is huge for our franchise because none of you guys had us here. You guys are all supposed to be on vacation. Yeah, I know. It’s cool to go through this, and we’re going against — you can call them a dynasty. … [T]hey have three great players who will all be Hall of Famers, and this is a great lesson learned for us. This isn’t the end. This is just the beginning.”