SAN FRANCISCO — You could see it coming before Game 2 even started. Shoot, you could see it coming before Game 1 even ended. The Dallas Mavericks were ejected from the field in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Wednesday, and you knew they would come out on Friday against the Golden State Warriors with renewed focus, better shooting touch and a vengeful and dangerous Luka Doncic. .
“I’ve seen it all my time in the NBA, player, executive, coach. Game 2 of a playoff series is always very different depending on the outcome of Game 1,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr, before Game 2. “We have to maintain our advantage tonight, and we have to really come out and be ready for the strength that they will undoubtedly bring.”
Ready for strength, the Warriors were not.
Just seven minutes into the game, the Mavericks had taken a 26-10 lead in front of a hushed Chase Center crowd. Doncic had already scored 12 points and Dallas had sunk five 3-pointers, fulfilling the promise of a bouncy shooting night so many had been waiting for. Meanwhile, the Warriors, despite knowing what was to come, looked stunned, confused and frustrated. They turned the ball over 10 times in the first half while allowing a stunning 15 3-pointers and 72 points for the Mavericks.
Draymond Green played one of the worst halves of his playoff career, picking up a technique and getting into a bad pass along the way. Klay Thompson had just six points and only made two 3-point attempts at halftime. Stephen Curry was the only one who could do anything, scoring 20 points in the first half on 5-for-7 3-pointers as the Warriors trailed by 14 points.
Everything was coming together. The probable had become the inevitable.
So when you see the final score, a 126-117 Warriors victory to take a 2-0 series lead, it tells the story of a team that absorbed a chill-inducing body shot and got into it. is lifted from the mat. Not just to survive, but to dominate.
“I thought we were so spread out in the first half. Maybe emotionally more than anything,” Kerr said after the second game. .”
We’re used to seeing Warriors playoffs in the third quarter, but it’s usually characterized by offense. They put up a respectable 25 points in the third Friday, but only allowed 13 points for the Mavs, who cut the halftime deficit by 12 points.
“We just haven’t communicated well enough on the pick-and-roll [in the first half]. They were able to get out and land a few shots. They were able to find shooters,” Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr. said after the game. “We got a bit closer to them in the second half, which made it difficult for them. We just played harder.”
When the fourth quarter rolled around, that’s when the offensive onslaught began and a new face led the charge. With Curry rested, Jordan Poole – who had his ups and downs after a fantastic start – was absolutely masterful, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. He also set up his teammates, including an absolute dime in Kevon Looney, who scored 20+ points in a game for the first time since his freshman year at UCLA.
“When Steph comes off the field the defense tends to focus a bit more on me,” Poole said after the game. “So keep being aggressive, and not just try to make plays for my teammates, but try to look for more shots and just keep our pace.”
By the time Poole substituted with just over six minutes left in the game, the Warriors had turned a two-point deficit into a seven-point lead. From then on, heroism was left to a much more familiar face in the Warrior Dynasty – Wardell Stephen Curry.
Curry checked in at 6:24 of the fourth quarter and scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. As Doncic lingered threateningly on the other side, Curry made sure any potential Mavericks comeback was crashed before it started. He finished with 32 points on the night, going 6 of 10 from 3-pointers.
“There’s a reason our team has won championships, and that’s because we have players who are stars and players who are fearless and able to play and perform under pressure,” Kerr said after the match. “But Steph in particular, the guy is one of the great players of all time. That’s what the greats do.”
Fittingly, it was Curry’s long 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with just over a minute to go that sealed the win and allowed him to hit the Mavericks with his signature “last night” celebration. -night”.
It’s become a cliché to cite the Warriors’ championship pedigree — sort of like alluding to “Heat culture” — but it’s hard to deny when you witness performances like this. It was the Warriors’ 12th playoff victory after dropping at least 15 points since Kerr took over as head coach in 2014-15. Part of that is down to the high-explosive offense they’ve consistently put forth, but you don’t come back that often, without incredible resilience, confidence and teamwork.
It’s what lets you take a forehand to the chin from a scrappy team with one of the best players in the NBA, then rise from the canvas to deliver the knockout blow – once again.
“For us, the experience, just the chemistry – obviously this group is different – but we have this attitude, the spirit that we feel like we never get out of it,” Curry said after the Game 2 win. “That belief then translates into execution in the game, and you can feel the momentum. It’s more just focused on what we’re doing. When we have those opportunities to stick the dagger or make three saves in a row, that are the times when we feel the good energy flowing our way.”