The Dallas Mavericks are starting to play like threats in the Western Conference.
Dallas defeated the Golden State Warriors 99-82 in Wednesday's showdown and potential playoff preview at American Airlines Center. It was the first of four matchups between the two teams this season.
Luka Doncic led the way for the victors, who improved to 20-18 on the campaign with their fourth straight win.
Stephen Curry struggled on the other end for the Warriors as they fell to 29-8 and saw their two-game winning streak come to an end.
Notable Player Stats
- Luka Doncic, G, DAL: 26 PTS, 8 AST, 7 REB, 2 STL
- Dorian Finney-Smith, F, DAL: 17 PTS, 9 REB, 2 BLK
- Jalen Brunson, G, DAL: 15 PTS, 4 AST, 2 REB
- Stephen Curry, G, GS: 14 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST, 5-of-24 FG, 1-of-9 3PT
- Andrew Wiggins, F, GS: 17 PTS, 3 REB, 2 STL, 2 AST
- Gary Payton II, G, GS: 11 PTS, 11 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL
Luka, Team Defense Lead Way for Mavs
The Mavericks are trying to take the next step with Doncic and go from a team that makes the playoffs and loses in the first round to one that can challenge the top teams in the West for a deep run.
That meant this was something of a measuring-stick game against the conference-leading Warriors, and they wasted no time setting the tone by jumping out to a double-digit lead by halftime.
As expected, Doncic led the way by attacking the lane, drawing contact, battling for boards and facilitating when needed. It was far from a one-man show, though, as Jalen Brunson added secondary scoring and Tim Hardaway Jr. provided a spark off the bench with his outside shooting.
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Even with all that, the Mavericks were most impressive on the defensive end with their collective effort on Curry, which prevented the two-time MVP from taking over like he so often does.
It was just a matter of time before No. 30 at least started scoring some, but the defense prevented his individual brilliance even when the Warriors came charging back in the third quarter. The Mavericks' biggest issue was finding scoring outside of Doncic with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined, especially when they went cold and allowed the visitors back into the game for the final quarter.
To the Mavericks' credit, they fought right back after giving up the lead and reestablished a double-digit advantage by the middle of the fourth quarter with Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith capitalizing on the openings created by Doncic. That was missing for a time in the third, but the spark, along with the continued defensive effort, helped the victors seize control for good.
Doncic is always going to stuff the stat sheet, but the Mavericks are far more dangerous when Hardaway and Finney-Smith are also hitting shots like they did as they pulled ahead. If they can play defense like they did against the formidable Warriors, they can continue climbing the standings.
Steph Struggles As Warriors Offense Falters
The scariest thing about Golden State entering play with the NBA's best record is Klay Thompson could return as soon as Sunday. That meant this game was another chance to send a message against a possible Western Conference playoff contender that this is the Warriors' title to lose.
So much for that.
The Warriors managed just 39 points in the first half with Curry missing all five of his three-point attempts and going just 1-of-10 from the field. It was partially a testament to the Mavericks' defensive effort, as the home team cut off his driving lanes, sent doubles his way and swarmed any potential open looks on the outside.
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Draymond Green was also scoreless in the first half, and Golden State struggled with turnovers and failed to generate any type of rhythm with its two primary playmakers held in check.
That changed somewhat in the third quarter as Curry hit his first three and got to the basket multiple times, Gary Payton II impressed on the glass while still scoring some, and Andrew Wiggins played well for stretches. The Warriors even took the temporary lead and were well within striking distance heading to the fourth.
Still, Golden State fell behind once again in that final quarter and continued to struggle on the offensive end.
Curry never got going like he typically does, which marked the second straight game after he shot just 1-of-10 from deep in a win over the Miami Heat. One particularly poor turnover undercut a last comeback attempt in the final minutes, although it surely won't take him long to rediscover his greatness even after two bad shooting games.
Both teams are on the road for their next game when the Warriors face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday and the Mavericks play the Houston Rockets on Friday.